Iranian state television shows images of SUVs racing through a forested area in search of President Ebrahim Raisi. A helicopter belonging to the presidential fleet crashed on Sunday. Iranian state media now reports that Raisi has been killed. What is known.

What happened?

A helicopter belonging to the presidential fleet of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was involved in an accident. Iranian Interior Minister Ahmed Vahidi said that one of the three helicopters belonging to the presidential fleet was on its way back Azerbaijan He made a „hard landing.” Vahidi initially left it open whether the president was on the plane or not, as reported by the official IRNA news agency. It was not clear for several hours how the president and staff were faring.

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Early Monday morning, the Red Crescent announced that the helicopter that crashed was on a mountain in the northwest of the country Iran Its location has been determined. According to the Iranian government, 65 rescue teams equipped with police dogs and drones, in addition to the Red Crescent, were deployed. The search process has become difficult due to weather conditions and the nature of the terrain. Media reported heavy rain, fog and winds. Rescuers sometimes search on foot in the dark.

Iranian state television and state news agencies then announced Raisi’s death that morning. The Iranian Mehr News Agency reported that all passengers on the plane were killed in the accident.

The cause of the accident remains unclear. However, Iran’s air force is very old. Many of the planes and helicopters date back to before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, when the country enjoyed close relations with the United States. Accidents and falls are not uncommon.

Rescue workers search for the presidential helicopter in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province. © Azin Haqiqi/Moj News Agency/Wana/Getty Images

Where did the accident happen?

There is no accurate information about the location of the accident. Iranian official media reported that the helicopter crashed in East Azerbaijan province near the city of Julfa or east near the village of Uzi.

East Azerbaijan Province is located in northwestern Iran and borders Azerbaijan and Armenia. It consists largely of mountains. The official IRNA news agency reported that the affected area was a forested area.

Who was on board the helicopter?

According to Iranian official media, President Raisi, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, the governor of Iran’s East Azerbaijan province, and other officials were on board the helicopter. A total of three helicopters are said to be on their way back from Azerbaijan.

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Who is President Al-Raisi?

Raisi has been Iran’s president since August 2021. The 63-year-old was considered a conservative hardliner. He was the preferred candidate and disciple of religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all strategic matters.

Relations with the West have deteriorated under Raisi, and his government has been criticized for years for its repressive policies against the population and the economic crisis. The United States imposed sanctions on Raisi over his role in the mass execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988.

Main lesson: Theology and Islamic law. He worked in the judiciary for more than three decades, and was appointed head of the judiciary in 2019. He was said to have been responsible for numerous arrests and executions of political opponents in his previous position as prosecutor.

In recent months, Raisi has emerged primarily as a fierce opponent of Israel, Iran’s arch enemy, in the Gaza war. He assured the Islamic Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip of Iran’s support for him.

Why was my boss in East Azerbaijan?

Raisi, 63, was in the border area with Azerbaijan on Sunday morning. There, the dam was opened with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. The opening was intended to be a sign of cooperation, as the relationship between the two countries has been considered tense recently.

Aliyev said after the incident was revealed: “Our prayers are directed to God Almighty for President Ibrahim Raisi and his accompanying delegation. The Republic of Azerbaijan, as a neighbor, friendly and brotherly country, is ready to provide any necessary support.”

How does the Iranian regime respond?

The Iranian Cabinet held an emergency meeting on Sunday headed by First Vice President Mohammad Majbar, the official IRNA news agency reported. Mujbar has begun additional procedures for the rescue operation. In the event of the death of my president, he is, according to protocol, the prime minister.

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According to an IRNA report, religious leader Khamenei called on residents not to worry. He added: „There will be no disruption to government work.” State affairs will not be affected by the incident.

Government members called on the public to pray for the president. Pictures broadcast on state television showed believers gathering at the central Hajj shrine in the city of Mashhad.

How does the international community respond?

There have been many offers of assistance internationally. A government spokesman said that Iraqi Prime Minister Muhammad Shia al-Sudani ordered the Ministry of Interior, the Iraqi Red Crescent and “other relevant authorities” to provide all available resources to Iran to search for the presidential helicopter. According to the official news agency, Saudi Arabia also promised to provide all necessary support.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised Iran to provide „all necessary assistance.” The state rescue service AFAD said that a team of 32 mountain rescue specialists and six vehicles will be brought to Iran.

The European Union Commission announced that it would activate satellite service to assist in the search. This was in response to a similar request for support from Iran, EU Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčić wrote in X.

Russia also offered support in researching and investigating the causes. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said: “We are closely following new information about the fate of the passengers of the third helicopter, among whom are high-ranking Iranian officials, including President Raisi.” „We sincerely hope they are alive.”

A US State Department spokesman said they were closely following reports of „a possible emergency landing of a helicopter in Iran.” The White House said that US President Joe Biden was informed of the latest events in Iran.

With material from news agencies AP, dpa, AFP and Reuters