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Iran President Raisi Missing After Helicopter’s ‘Hard Crash’

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Raisi and Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev visit the Qiz-Qalasi dam on the Azerbaijan-Iran border, May 19, 2024. [Iran’s Presidency/WANA (West Asia News Agency)(Reuters)
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev visit the Qiz-Qalasi dam on the Azerbaijan-Iran border, May 19, 2024. Iran's Presidency/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

A helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi made a “hard landing” on Sunday near Jolfa in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province, state media have reported. Inclement weather conditions hampered search and rescue operations, the report said.

Iranian state television and the semiofficial Fars news agency have called on the nation to pray for Raisi’s safety. State TV airs prayers for his well-being.

President Raisi was returning from a visit to neighbouring Azerbaijan, where he had participated in the inauguration of a dam alongside Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. Raisi’s helicopter was part of a convoy of three, with the other two helicopters returning safely.

Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, East Azerbaijan Governor Malek Rahmati, and Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Ale-Hashem, the Iranian supreme leader’s representative to the province, were among those on board with Raisi.

According to reports, Energy Minister Ali Akbar Mehrabian and Housing and Transportation Minister Mehrdad Bazrpash were in the other helicopters that completed the journey without incident.

The semiofficial Tasnim News Agency reported that individuals on the president’s helicopter managed to make an emergency call, raising hopes for a resolution without fatalities. In contrast, other reports suggest that Raisi is likely dead.

However, communication difficulties have persisted, possibly due to the accident’s severity or poor network coverage in the region.

Fouad Izadi, a professor of world studies at the University of Tehran, noted the challenge in establishing contact with the helicopter occupants, attributing it to the severity of the accident or the area’s lack of network coverage.

Iranian political analyst Mohammad Marandi highlighted that Raisi, known for his extensive domestic travel commitments, was in the border region following his meeting with President Aliyev. Marandi pointed out the hazardous weather conditions, with thick fog likely contributing to the helicopter’s hard landing.

As of press time, rescue operations are underway, with 40 search teams deployed and eight ambulances and drones assisting. However, poor visibility and adverse weather have complicated the efforts.

A few hours ago, in Mashhad, Iran’s religious hub, citizens gathered to offer prayers for President Raisi and the other passengers as the country anxiously awaits updates on their status.

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