Iranian President's Helicopter Crashes in Mountainous Terrain, Rescue Efforts Underway

In addition to President Raisi and Foreign Minister Amirabdollahian, the governor of East Azerbaijan Province, Malek Rahmati, and several other high-ranking officials were aboard the helicopter.

A helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and several other senior officials crashed on Sunday while navigating through mountainous terrain enveloped in dense fog. The accident occurred as the officials were returning from a visit to the Azerbaijan border, according to an Iranian official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. It has not yet been ascertained whether there have been fatalities or injuries from the accident. The incident occured amidst heavy rains and dense fog in the mountainous regions near the Azerbaijan border. Unfavorable weather conditions, including some wind, are believed to have contributed to the crash, which some reports have described as a “hard landing.

In addition to President Raisi and Foreign Minister Amirabdollahian, the governor of East Azerbaijan Province, Malek Rahmati, and several other high-ranking officials were aboard the helicopter. An unidentified Iranian official expressed grave concerns, telling Reuters that the lives of both Raisi and Amirabdollahian were “at risk following the helicopter crash.”

The official expressed deep concern over the situation, stating, “We are still hopeful, but information coming from the crash site is very concerning.” The adverse weather conditions are significantly hampering rescue operations, as reported by the state news agency IRNA.

According to Tasnim news agency, President Raisi’s helicopter was part of a convoy of three helicopters. The other two helicopters successfully reached their destination without incident, highlighting the specific challenges faced by Raisi’s aircraft.

In response to the crisis, state television interrupted its regular programming to broadcast prayers being held nationwide for President Raisi. Concurrently, live footage showed rescue teams methodically searching the foggy, mountainous region on foot.

President Raisi, aged 63, was elected in 2021 and has since been a pivotal figure in Iran’s political landscape. Known for his enforcement of stricter morality laws, his administration has faced both internal and external challenges, including violent crackdowns on anti-government protests and intense nuclear negotiations with global powers.

Interior Minister Ahmed Vahidi informed state television that one of the three helicopters in the convoy had made a hard landing. Authorities are currently awaiting more detailed information. Raisi had been at the Azerbaijan border to inaugurate the Qiz-Qalaisi Dam, a joint project between Iran and Azerbaijan.

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Search and Rescue Updates

Signals have been detected from the crash site, originating from both the helicopter and the mobile phone of a flight crew member. Asghar Abbasgholizadeh, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Eastern Azerbaijan, stated, “We are now mobilizing all military forces towards the area, and I am hopeful we can deliver positive news to the people.” He highlighted that the region has reached its maximum capacity for additional forces.

The chief of staff of Iran’s army has ordered the deployment of all available resources from both the army and the elite Revolutionary Guard to aid in the search and rescue operations. This mobilization underscores the severity of the situation and the high stakes involved.

The Iranian interior minister has also stated that the rescuers are still making continuous efforts to reach the site of the incident but the poor weather conditions have constantly posed as a challenge in their mission.

Despite initial reports from local media claiming the helicopter had been found, the Iranian Red Crescent has denied these reports. Energy Minister Ali Akbar Mehrabian confirmed that there have been no new developments, although search and rescue teams are believed to be within two kilometers of a potential location.

International Responses and Rescue Efforts

The incident has drawn immediate international attention, with several countries expressing concern and offering assistance:

  • Turkey: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed profound sorrow over the accident, stating that Turkey is closely monitoring the situation and is ready to provide any necessary assistance. Turkey’s emergency aid agency, AFAD, announced the dispatch of 32 mountain rescue specialists to aid in the search efforts.
  • Saudi Arabia: Riyadh has expressed support for Iran and declared its readiness to provide any required assistance. The Saudi foreign ministry, through the state news agency, expressed “great concern” and is closely following updates on the crash.
  • Qatar: Qatar has also offered “all forms of support” to Iran in the wake of the helicopter crash, as stated by the Qatari foreign ministry.

Nationwide Prayers and Hope

As the nation prays for the safety of President Raisi and Foreign Minister Amirabdollahian, rescue teams continue their tireless efforts in the challenging conditions. The entire country remains on edge, hoping for positive news amidst the ongoing rescue operations.