DUBAI: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his foreign minister were killed in a helicopter crash in mountainous terrain and icy weather, an Iranian official said on Monday, after search teams located the wreckage in East Azerbaijan province.

“President Raisi, the foreign minister and all the passengers in the helicopter were killed in the crash,” the senior Iranian official told Reuters, asking not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Iran’s Mehr news agency confirmed the deaths, reporting that “all passengers of the helicopter carrying the Iranian president and foreign minister were martyred”.

An Iranian official earlier told Reuters the helicopter carrying Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian was completely burned in the crash on Sunday.

State TV reported that images from the site showed the aircraft slammed into a mountain peak, although there was no official word on the cause of the crash.

State news agency IRNA said Raisi was flying in a US-made Bell 212 helicopter.

Raisi, 63, was elected president in 2021, and pushed hard in nuclear talks with world powers.

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Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds ultimate power with a final say on foreign policy and Iran’s nuclear programme, had earlier sought to reassure Iranians, saying there would be no disruption to state affairs.

Prayers, searches

Rescue teams fought blizzards and difficult terrain through the night to reach the wreckage in the early hours of Monday.

“With the discovery of the crash site, no signs of life have been detected among the helicopter’s passengers,” the head of Iran’s Red Crescent, Pirhossein Kolivand, told state TV.

Earlier, the national broadcaster had stopped all regular programming to show prayers being held for Raisi across the country.

Helicopter carrying Iran’s President Raisi crashes, search under way

In the early hours of Monday, it showed a rescue team, wearing bright jackets and head torches, huddled around a GPS device as they searched a pitch-black mountainside on foot in a blizzard. Several countries expressed concern and offered assistance in any rescue.

The White House said US President Joe Biden had been briefed on reports about the crash. China said it was deeply concerned.

The European Union offered emergency satellite mapping technology.

The crash comes at a time of growing dissent within Iran over an array of political, social and economic crises.

After Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, Israel’s aggression in Gaza has been followed by a wider conflict throughout the Middle East.

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For years many have seen Raisi as a strong contender to succeed Khamenei, who has endorsed Raisi’s main policies.

Raisi’s victory in a closely managed election in 2021 brought all branches of power under the control of hardliners, after eight years when the presidency had been held by pragmatist Hassan Rouhani and a nuclear deal negotiated with powers including Washington.

However, Raisi’s standing may have been dented by widespread protests against clerical rule and a failure to turn around Iran’s economy, hamstrung by Western sanctions.

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Raisi had been at the Azerbaijani border on Sunday to inaugurate the Qiz-Qalasi Dam, a joint project. Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, who said he had bid a “friendly farewell” to Raisi earlier in the day, offered assistance in the rescue.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif expressed deepest condolences and sympathies to the Iranian nation and prayed for the martyred souls.

“Had been anxiously following developments regarding the reported crash landing of President Raisi’s helicopter.

Was hoping for good news. Alas, this was not to be,“ he said in a post on X.

The PM further said that Pakistan had the pleasure of hosting President Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian on a historic visit.

“They were good friends of Pakistan. Pakistan will observe a day of mourning and the flag will fly at half mast as a mark of respect for President Raisi and his companions and in solidarity with Brotherly Iran.”

President Asif Ali Zardari also expressed his profound shock and sorrow over the tragic death of his Iranian counterpart.

“Today, Pakistan mourns the loss of a great friend. Just last month, we had the honour of hosting him in Pakistan.

During our discussions, I found him very keen on strengthening our bilateral relations,“ President Zardari said.

“Our heartfelt condolences go out to the brotherly people of Iran, especially the families of President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, following the tragic incident,” PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto said on X.

Comments

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test May 20, 2024 12:21pm
Mark my words and mark them well "Only an elite class can kill other elite class" A common man has nothing to do with it Neither Weather conditions nor Pilot it was all pre planned by some elite class
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Az_Iz May 20, 2024 04:35pm
Inna Lillahi Wa Inna Ilaihi Rajioon.
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