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Helicopter carrying Iranian President, FM crashes

The helicopter mishap occurred during President Raisi's return after the inauguration of the Qiz Qalasi Dam alongside Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.
01:36 AM May 20, 2024 IST | SURINDER SINGH OBEROI
President of the Red Crescent Society, Pir Hossein Kolivand, announced the deployment of 40 emergency relief teams from six provinces – Tehran, Alborz, Ardabil, Zanjan, East Azerbaijan, and West Azerbaijan - to the site of the incident.
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New Delhi, May 19: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi experienced a harrowing helicopter crash during his visit to East Azerbaijan province, as reported by official state media on Sunday.

The incident occurred when his helicopter made a hard landing in a rugged area between two mountainous villages, in the Varzaqan region aggravated by challenging weather conditions and terrain. Since then, there has been no contact with the missing helicopter.

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Immediately following the crash, search and rescue operations including drones were mobilised to locate the exact site amidst the difficult landscape.

It took hours before the emergency crews, including the Red Crescent Relief Forces, military units, and law enforcement reached the area facing additional obstacles due to foggy weather and rough terrain hindering access to the scene.

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President of the Red Crescent Society, Pir Hossein Kolivand, announced the deployment of 40 emergency relief teams from six provinces – Tehran, Alborz, Ardabil, Zanjan, East Azerbaijan, and West Azerbaijan - to the site of the incident.

These teams are currently searching the area.

“Additionally, 15 Red Crescent K-9 teams and two Red Crescent drones are actively searching for any trace of the helicopter carrying the Iranian President,” he said.

Iran's Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi informed the Iranian state television that multiple rescue teams had been deployed to locate the helicopter.

Vahidi noted that adverse weather conditions and fog in the area were causing delays in reaching the crash site.

“The situation is under control, and rescue operations are ongoing. We are hopeful that they will be completed expeditiously,” he said.

According to the IRNA news agency, citing local sources, the helicopter crashed in the Dizmar Forest area situated between the villages of Ozi and Pir Davood.

“Residents in northern Varzeqan, East Azerbaijan Province, reported hearing noises emanating from the vicinity,” the agency said.

President Raisi was travelling with several dignitaries, including Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, and East Azerbaijan Governor Malik Rahmati, Friday prayer leader Hojjatoleslam Al Hashem, and a few others were also on board the helicopter.

There were some GPS signals received from the helicopter that helped the emergency crews in locating the crash site, the local media said.

The helicopter mishap occurred during President Raisi's return after the inauguration of the Qiz Qalasi Dam alongside Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.

Despite recent tensions stemming from diplomatic incidents, both leaders proceeded with the ceremonial event, highlighting their commitment to collaborative projects like the dam on the Aras River, despite ongoing regional complexities.

Early Sunday, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev jointly inaugurated the Qiz Qalasi Dam.

The ceremony took place after the leaders toured various parts of the dam, which is situated on the border river Aras.

They were briefed on the construction process and the benefits the dam would bring to both countries.

Local media reported that during their discussions, President Raisi emphasized that Iran and Azerbaijan will continue to support the Palestinian people, united in their opposition to the regime.

“The Palestine issue is the most important issue of the Islamic world, and the Iranian and Azerbaijani nations have no doubts in their support for the Palestinian people…” Raisi said.

Iran's ageing fleet of helicopters, constrained by international sanctions, often faces maintenance challenges, contributing to the difficulties encountered during such incidents.

The country's military aircraft predominantly hail from the era preceding the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Ebrahim Raisolsadati, commonly known as Ebrahim Raisi, was born in December 1960.

He is a hardliner and former judiciary chief, widely regarded as a protégé of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

A well-known Muslim jurist, Raisi has been serving as the eighth president of Iran since August 3, 2021, following his victory in the 2021 presidential election.

He succeeded Hassan Rouhani, who served from 2013 to 2021.

Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, born on April 23, 1964, is serving as Iran's Minister of Foreign Affairs.

His career spans significant roles in diplomacy and international relations, including Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs from 2011 to 2016.

Before his current position, he held key roles such as special aide on international affairs to the speaker of the Iranian Parliament and Director General of International Affairs at the Islamic Consultative Assembly.

Amir-Abdollahian, a Doctorate in International Relations, from Tehran University was a professor at the Foreign Ministry's School of International Relations.

Known for his alignment with the Resistance Front and support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria, Amir-Abdollahian has been actively involved in regional diplomacy.

He played a pivotal role as a member of the Political and Security Committee of the Nuclear Negotiations during talks under President Mohammad Khatami's administration.

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