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No sign of life at President Raisi’s helicopter wreckage: Iran State TV

May 20, 2024
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New Delhi: An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) has potentially pinpointed the location of a helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi that went missing over a mountainous region in East Azerbaijan province, a report said.

Here are 10 points on this big story:

  1. The incident occurred during President Raisi’s return flight to Iranian city Tabriz after he and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev inaugurated the Qiz Qalasi Dam on their shared border. Video footage of the purported crash site can be viewed here
  2. The helicopter, carrying President Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and other officials, lost contact approximately 30 minutes into the flight. This sparked immediate concerns and a massive search and rescue operation.
  3. Initial reports from Iran’s state media described the situation as an “accident.” Iran’s Deputy President for Executive Affairs Mohsen Mansouri said that two members of the president’s entourage had contacted rescue teams, suggesting that the incident might not have been catastrophic. Mansouri added that the Ministry of Communications had managed to narrow down the potential crash site to within a two-kilometre radius.
  4. Iranian state media reported that Deputy Foreign Minister for Economic Diplomacy Mehdi Safari claimed that the Tabriz Friday prayer leader had managed to speak with President Raisi, 63, via phone from the downed helicopter. “Mehdi Safari, who was present in one of the three helicopters carrying President Raisi’s entourage, said the Tabriz Friday prayer leader had made a phone call to the president from inside the crashed copter,” the report reads. 
  5. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged calm and assured that there would be no disruption in the country’s governance. “We hope that Almighty God will bring our dear president and his companions back in full health into the arms of the nation,” he stated in a televised address.
  6. The search effort has been extensive, with more than 60 rescue teams, including army, Revolutionary Guard forces, and police units, scouring the foggy, mountainous terrain. The harsh weather conditions and heavy fog have significantly hampered these efforts. Iran’s Red Crescent chief, Pirhossein Koolivand, said the team has detected a “smell of fuel” in one area, which rescue teams are now converging on.
  7. The international community has expressed concern and offered assistance. Neighbouring countries and organisations, including Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Russia, Turkey, and the European Union, have pledged support. The EU has even activated its rapid response mapping service to aid in the search efforts.
  8. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday expressed his “deep concern” with a post on social media. “Deeply concerned by reports regarding President Raisi’s helicopter flight today. We stand in solidarity with the Iranian people in this hour of distress, and pray for well being of the President and his entourage,” he said in a post on X.
  9. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani conveyed gratitude for the international solidarity and offers of help. US President Joe Biden has been briefed on the situation, with a State Department spokesman confirming they are closely monitoring developments.
  10. This incident follows a period of heightened regional tensions, particularly in light of the Gaza conflict and Iran’s recent escalations with Israel. President Raisi, who has been in office since 2021, has pledged Iran’s steadfast support for Palestine, a stance reiterated during his recent dam inauguration speech.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Kashmir Monitor staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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