Iranian President, Foreign Minister, Others Missing after Helicopter’s ‘Hard Landing’ in Mountainous Terrain

*State media says site located, silent on state of leader, others

Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja

President of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, who were on board the helicopter that suffered a “hard landing” in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province, were still missing as of 3.45 a.m Monday, as search and rescue efforts continued.
Aside Foreign Minister, Abdollahian; Governor of Eastern Azerbaijan province, Malek Rahmati, Tabriz’s Friday prayer Imam Mohammad Ali Alehashem as well as a pilot, co-pilot, crew chief, head of security and another bodyguard were also reported to be on board the helicopter.

However, it was learnt that adverse weather conditions, including heavy fog, were hampering rescue efforts even as the helicopter was still missing.
But some state media outlets, including IRNA, were reporting that the site had been located, although they were silent on the state of the Iranian leader and other persons on board.
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander-in-chief Hossein Salami had also arrived at the general area of the crash to help lead search-and-rescue efforts.

This was going on as a crisis management meeting was in session with top IRGC commanders, ministers, the first vice president and local officials, according to state media.
Turkey agreed to send 32 mountain rescue specialists to help the country in the search for the helicopter carrying the president Raisi, the government’s emergency aid agency AFAD said.
The team and 32 vehicles have been deployed from centres in eastern Turkey, said AFAD in a post on X. It added that Iran had requested the use of a helicopter with night vision.
However, it was gathered that signals had been reportedly detected by the armed forces from the helicopter and the mobile phone of a member of the flight crew.

The two-blade aircraft was said to be a medium-sized helicopter that has a 15-seat capacity, with one pilot and 14 passengers.
It is unclear how many people were on Raisi’s helicopter, including flight crew and potential security personnel. Several remarks also poured from across the globe.
“Russia is ready to extend all necessary help in the search for the missing helicopter and the investigation of the reasons for the incident,” RIA quoted a foreign ministry spokesperson as saying.

The European Commission said it was activating satellite mapping service to aid search efforts, following a request for assistance from Iran, the European commissioner for crisis management said.
The European Commission’s Copernicus Emergency Management Service provides mapping products based on satellite imagery.
Crisis management commissioner Janez Lenarcic said on X that the service was activating its “rapid response mapping service in view of the helicopter accident”.
Raisi was heading to the city of Tabriz, in the north west of Iran, after returning from an Iran-Azerbaijan border area, according to local media, when the accident happened.

The United Arab Emirates also offered support and said it stood by Iran. Turkey sent a mountain rescue team to Iran, and earlier, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said he was saddened by the accident,
Writing in a post on X, Erdogan said: “I hope to receive good news from Raisi and his delegation as soon as possible”
US President Joe Biden had been briefed on the incident, according to a White House spokesperson.
 Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General, said he was following updates on the crash. “He hopes for the safety of the president and his entourage,” a UN spokesperson said in a statement

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s leader, expressed hope that the president and accompanying officials will return safely to the nation. He requested prayers for them and assured the Iranian people not to worry, as there will be no issues in running the country.
Raisi is one of the most conservative presidents Iran has ever had and is very close to the supreme leader. He is also one of the serious contenders to succeed as Iran’s supreme leader.
However, instability could certainly affect the economy. Following the announcement of the news, the Iranian Rial plummeted against the US Dollar.
Specifically, Raisi was returning from an area near the Iran-Azerbaijan border, where he opened two dams with his Azeri counterpart Ilham Aliyev, before reports of an accident emerged.

Iranian state media used the phrase “hard landing” to describe the reported crash of the Iranian President’s helicopter.
Hard landing is a phrase often used by authorities in Russia to describe incidents when aircraft crash. It is commonly used by the Russian Defence Ministry when reporting incidents with military aircraft.
Earlier, a spokesperson for the Red Crescent said three of the group’s rescue workers had gone missing during the search for the crashed helicopter. The organisation later said that none of its workers were missing.

“All official updates about rescue operation will either come from the task force in charge of these operations,” a spokeswoman added.
Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev said he was “profoundly troubled” after hearing reports about a helicopter crash involving Raisi.
Aliyev was with the Iranian president earlier yesterday to open two dams around the Iran-Azerbaijan border.
“Today, after bidding a friendly farewell to the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, we were profoundly troubled by the news of a helicopter carrying the top delegation crash-landing in Iran,” he writes on X.
“Our prayers to Allah Almighty are with President Ebrahim Raisi and the accompanying delegation, he added, stressing that Azerbaijan was ready to offer any assistance needed.

The crash comes at a time of growing dissent within Iran over an array of political, social and economic crises. Iran’s clerical rulers face international pressure over Tehran’s disputed nuclear programme and its deepening military ties with Russia during the war in Ukraine.
Since Iran’s ally Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, provoking Israel’s assault on Gaza, conflagrations involving Iran-aligned groups have erupted throughout the Middle East.

Raisi, 63, was elected president in 2021, and since taking office has ordered a tightening of morality laws, overseen a bloody crackdown on anti-government protests and pushed hard in nuclear talks with world powers.
In Iran’s dual political system, split between the clerical establishment and the government, it is Raisi’s 85-year-old mentor Khamenei, supreme leader since 1989, who holds decision-making power on all major policies.

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 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.

Raisi had been at the Azerbaijani border yesterday 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.

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