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Iran Prez dies in helicopter crash; Mohammad Mokhber to takeover

Last updated on: May 20, 2024 16:56 IST

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian and others on board the helicopter that crashed a day ago in the northwest of the country have all died according to state media Press TV.


IMAGE: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi speaks during an anti-Israel protest in Tehran, Iran, October 18, 2023. Photograph: Majid Asgaripour/WANA via Reuters

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, East Azarbaijan Governor Malek Rahmati, East Azarbaijan Imam of Friday Prayer Mohammad Ali Ale-Hashem, and several other passengers have been killed in the helicopter crash.

Raisi was heading to the city of Tabriz, in the north-west of Iran, after returning from an Iran-Azerbaijan border area when the chopper ran into heavy fog.

State news agency IRNA reported, "Upon the martyrdom of the president and the minister of foreign affairs, the government cabinet convened an urgent meeting."


Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei tasked Vice President Mohammad Mokhber to assume interim duties after Raisi's death.

The Iranian Constitution mandates, in the case of the death of the President, the first vice president shall assume, with the approval of the Supreme Leader, the powers and functions of the president.

Khamenei, in a message issued on Monday morning, expressed his great sadness over the deaths and offered condolences to people of his country.

Vice President Mohammad Mokhber is expected to assume interim duties shortly.

"In accordance with Article 131 of the constitution, Mokhber is in charge of leading the executive branch," Khamenei said in a statement. He added that Mokhber will be required to work with the heads of legislative and judicial to prepare for presidential elections "within a maximum period of 50 days," he said.

The Iranian cabinet has appointed Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani as acting foreign minister following the death of Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

Meanwhile, an Al Jazeera reporter said that "looking at the wreckage of the helicopter, the chances of anyone surviving in such an accident are quite slim. We see that the whole cabin of the helicopter is completely burned."

The publication said that Iranian authorities "are saying that some of the bodies were burned beyond recognition, and that they have not been able to identify who is who at the site."

Drone footage of the wreckage taken by the Red Crescent was carried on state media. It showed the crash site on a steep, wooded hillside, with little remaining of the helicopter beyond a blue and white tail, CNN reported.

The crash site of the helicopter carrying President Raisi was found in the forested mountains earlier on Monday. The wreckage was found en route from Khoylar village to Kelem.

Tasnim News Agency reported from Varzeqan that after the probable coordinates of the crash site were announced, rescue teams immediately went to the designated location, but there was no sign of the helicopter.

The search operation continued as daylight broke along the Khoylar to Kelem route.

Rescue teams then noticed the helicopter's blades and wings on a hill and immediately changed their course towards the hill.

The Iranian Red Crescent head highlighted that, according to the videos from the rescue teams, the entire cabin of the helicopter was significantly damaged and burned, adding that there were no signs of survivors on the site.

Nine people were on the helicopter that crashed in northwest Iran on Sunday, including three officials, an imam, and flight and security team members, as reported by Tasnim News.

The IRGC-run media outlet, Sepah, reported the nine included: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian; Governor of Eastern Azerbaijan province Malek Rahmati, Tabriz's Friday prayer Imam Mohammad Ali Alehashem, as well as a pilot, copilot, crew chief, head of security, and another bodyguard. 

Source: ANI