Iranian President Raisi, FM Amir-Abdollahian killed in chopper crash; Iran declares 5 days’ mourning

Tehran, May 20 (UNI) Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian along with some other senior Iranian officials have died in a helicopter crash in northwestern Iran, Iranian authorities confirmed on Monday after overnight searches located the wreckage of the missing crashed chopper in a mountainous area.

The accident happened on Sunday as President Raisi, the eighth President of Iran, and his entourage were returning from Khoda Afarin region in Iran’s northwestern province of East Azarbaijan after inaugurating a dam at the common border with the Republic of Azerbaijan.

The Iranian cabinet convened an emergency meeting on Monday morning after the official confirmation of the death of President Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in the crash.

Iranian spiritual leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei declared five days’ mourning in the nation, and also approved the appointment of Vice-President Mohammad Mokhber to take over as interim president.

In a message, Ayatollah Khamenei expressed his great sadness over the death of President Raisi and described him as a hard-working cleric and a popular president who dedicated his life to serving the people of Iran, the country and Islam.

“In this bitter tragedy, the Iranian nation lost a warm-hearted, humble and valued servant,” said Ayatollah Khamenei, adding that President Raisi never stopped his hard and round-the-clock work for the people of Iran despite being faced with criticisms of ill-wishers.

The Iranian cabinet also approved the appointment of Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani as caretaker foreign minister. The Iranian Government Spokesman Ali Bahadori Jahromi made the announcement on Monday.

Bagheri Kani, 56, was serving as Amir-Abdollahian’s deputy for political affairs.

Meanwhile, the bodies of Iranian President Raisi, Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian and other passengers killed in the helicopter crash have been retrieved and have been taken to Tabriz.

The head of the Iranian Red Crescent Society (IRCS) Pir-Hossein Koulivand said that the bodies of all the passengers in the ill-fated helicopter have been transferred to ambulances taken to the cemetery of Tabriz, the semi-official Tasnim agency reported.

He said the rescue teams were deployed to the crash scene after an Iranian drone detected the exact location of wreckage of the helicopter. The search operation for the helicopter had continued throughout the night in the foggy and rainy weather, he added.

The helicopter crashed close to a copper mine called Sungun. It is located in between Jolfa and Varzaqan in the East Azerbaijan province of Iran and is roughly between 70km to 100km away from the city of Tabriz, one of the largest cities in Iran and also the city that the president of Iran and foreign minister were headed toward.

Since Sunday afternoon, 40 separate rescue teams had been dispatched to the forested and mountainous area to locate the chopper, which was located only in the wee hours of Monday.

Harsh weather made the region accessible only by ground teams, as aerial approaches were unfeasible.

The mountainous terrain and natural obstacles rendered communication with the president’s entourage nearly impossible.

The crash killed President Raisi, Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian, Friday prayers leader of Tabriz Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Al-e-Hashem, Governor of East Azarbaijan Malek Rahmati, and members of the president’s security team and the crew.

Ebrahim Raisi, 64, was born in the holy city of Mashhad. He was elected president in 2021. Before that, he served as the judiciary chief, the general prosecutor and the vice-chairman of the Assembly of Experts. Raisi was also a member of the Expediency Council.

World leaders have extended their shock over the death of President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and their companions in a chopper crash and extended their condolences.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed deep sadness and shock at news of the death of President Raisi, and said his contribution to strengthening bilateral ties will always be remembered.

In a post on X, PM Modi also expressed his heartfelt condolences to President Raisi’s family and the people of Iran, and said India stands with Iran in this time of sorrow.

“Deeply saddened and shocked by the tragic demise of Dr. Seyed Ebrahim Raisi, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. His contribution to strengthening India-Iran bilateral relationship will always be remembered. My heartfelt condolences to his family and the people of Iran. India stands with Iran in this time of sorrow,” he posted.

Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev conveyed his condolences to Ayatollah Khamenei and the people of Iran, mourning the loss of President Raisi and his accompanying officials who were killed in the tragic incident.

Qatar’s Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, expressed his sorrow to the Iranian government and people.

Qatar’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, also extended his sympathies over the tragic helicopter crash.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in a heartfelt message, extended condolences to Ayatollah Khamenei and the Iranian nation on behalf of himself and the Syrian people.

The Egyptian Presidency issued a statement expressing condolences and solidarity with Iran’s leadership and people over the significant loss.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov paid tribute to the deceased, highlighting their patriotism and dedicated service to Iran, and announced that the Russian embassy’s flag would be flown at half-mast in solidarity.

European Council President Charles Michel conveyed the European Union’s sincere condolences over the deaths of President Raisi, Foreign Minister Amir-abdollahian, and other officials in the helicopter crash.

Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) both expressed their condolences over the tragic incident.

New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Winston Peters offered thoughts and prayers to the people of Iran and extended condolences.

Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu expressed deep sorrow over the helicopter crash, and extended condolences.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif announced a day of national mourning as a mark of respect.

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