Darkness complicates search for Iran’s president: what we know – and what we don’t know – about Raisi’s helicopter crash

Darkness complicates search for Iran's president: what we know - and what we don't know - about Raisi's helicopter crash

After a Accident of the helicopter carrying the Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hussein Amirabdollahian on board, 40 rescue teams search the crash site in the northwest of the country. As Iranian state media reported on Sunday afternoon (local time), the fate of the nine-member crew was initially unclear. The Reuters news agency reports, citing a source, that the president’s life is in danger.

In an interview on state television, Vice President of Executive Affairs Mohsen Mansuri said The crew had already been contacted several times. The politician did not reveal any further details on Sunday night.

According to Iranian media reports no contact with the president’s team, which generated great concern among government supporters. Rescuers continued the search on foot in the Iranian province of East Azerbaijan even at night, in the rain in a mountainous region.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (left) and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev at the jointly built dam on the Aras River, before the inauguration ceremony.

© AFP/Iranian Presidency/Uncredited

Raisi, 63, was at the meeting with Foreign Minister Amirabdollahian. Return trip from a meeting with the president of neighboring Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev. Together they inaugurated a dam. It was intended to be a sign of cooperation after the relationship between the neighboring countries was strained recently.

The helicopter later crashed in East Azerbaijan province. There were nine people on board, including the governor and the Friday preacher of Tabris, the provincial capital.

According to the radio station “Iran International”, there were three helicopters in the convoy, two of which supposedly arrived safely at their destination.

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According to the Minister of the Interior, Ahmad Wahidi, the rescuers had It was not easy to access the accident site due to the weather conditions and the nature of the terrain.. Therefore, there is no precise information about the situation on the ground.

“It’s dark and it’s started to rain,” a journalist reported on state television on Sunday. Rescue teams had arrived at the accident area. The mud makes the search difficult. Furthermore, the mountainous region is covered in fog. Army leaders ordered that all military and Revolutionary Guard resources be used for the searches.

Rescuers continued searching for the machine on foot in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province on Sunday, in rain and fog in a mountainous region.

©REUTERS/Azin Haghighi

As night fell, rescuers at the scene feared the search would become more difficult. The search also included Sniffer dogs and drones used. As reported by Iranian media, the crash site is located near Jolfa, more than 600 kilometers from the capital Tehran, near the border with Azerbaijan.

Meanwhile, neighboring Iraq has offered to help with the search. Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani has instructed the Interior Ministry, the Iraqi Red Crescent and “other relevant authorities” to offer Iran all available resources in the search for the presidential helicopter, the spokesman said on Sunday. government, Bassem al-Awadi.

Followers gather to pray; critics await news of his death

People gathered in Mashhad, Raisi’s hometown in the northeast of the country. Dozens of believers at the central pilgrimage sanctuary, as reported by state radio. His followers also flocked to mosques in other parts of the country, such as the religious stronghold of Qom. There was great concern that something had happened to Raisi and Foreign Minister Hussein Amirabdollahian.

On social media, however, there were also many Iranians who were happy about the accident. “Many people from #Iran we are currently speaking to would like the news of #Raisi’s death to be confirmed,” writes German-Yazidi human rights activist Düzen Tekkal on the X platform.

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“He was responsible for the executions of thousands of political prisoners and in Iran he is also called ‘the butcher of Tehran,’” Tekkal continued. Iran’s government warned against unconfirmed information.

Iran’s air force is considered very obsolete, its modernization is making little progress in the face of strict international sanctions. Many planes and helicopters date from before the Islamic Revolution of 1979, when the country had close relations with the United States. Serious accidents and collisions happen again and again.

The Revolutionary Guard apparently takes positions in government buildings

The European Union is monitoring the situation, Council President Charles Michel wrote on Platform X. “We are closely following reports that the helicopter with the Iranian president and foreign minister on board had to land unexpectedly.” .

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Reports on Platform These reports cannot be confirmed.

Conservative politician with close ties to Khamenei

Raisi was sworn in as the new president of Iran in August 2021. The ultraconservative clerics He officially became the successor of Hassan Ruhani, who was no longer allowed to run after two terms.

As the leading candidate of hardline politicians and the preferred candidate and protégé of religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Raisi won the presidential election in June with nearly 62 percent of the vote. His government has been criticized for years for its repressive policies and economic crisis.

Iran has been in the headlines again and again recently, Recently there was even a threat of a regional war with arch-enemy Israel. During Raisi’s tenure, the Islamic Republic deepened its economic and military cooperation with China and Russia, and relations with the West cooled, among other things due to the dispute over the domestic nuclear program.

Furthermore, the West blamed Iran massive human rights violations before. However, just a few days ago news emerged again about new indirect talks in the Gulf State of Oman with the US.

Raisi is considered very influential.

Born in Mashhad in 1960, Raisi is considered very influential within the Islamic system. he takes care of one close relationship with Khamenei. Raisi worked in the judiciary for more than three decades and was appointed head of the judiciary in 2019.

In his previous role as prosecutor, he is said to have died in 1988. responsible for numerous arrests and executions of political dissidents has been. According to the constitution, Raisi is the head of government, Khamenei is more powerful as head of state and has the final say in all strategic matters.

Meanwhile, experts also considered Raisi Khamenei’s possible successor who turned 85 in April. Domestically, although criticism from the young generation is increasingly directed against the entire system of the Islamic Republic, Raisi was constantly under pressure. Recently, the government pushed its controversial course of imposing mandatory wearing of the headscarf.

If Raisi and Amirabdollahian were killed in the accident, the Islamic Republic could become one domestic and foreign policy crisis fall. In particular, Iran’s foreign minister has been more in the public eye since the start of the Gaza war and has been a guest of allies on numerous trips. It will also be difficult for state leaders to quickly replace the head of government due to the lack of alternatives.

The news about the accident reminds me of April 10, 2010: at that time, the Polish presidential plane crashed in thick fog as it approached the city of Smolensk, in western Russia.

All 96 people on board died, including Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife, politicians, parliamentarians and other high-ranking representatives of the country. To this day, conspiracy theories surround the accident, which in Poland is considered a national trauma. (Tsp/dpa/AFP/Reuters)

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