Iran President Missing After Helicopter Crash

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi — often seen as a potential successor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — is missing after his helicopter went down in the northwest of the country on Sunday, officials said.
Vice President Mohsen Mansouri said contact was made with one of the helicopter passengers and one of the flight crew after the accident, although connection had frequently been interrupted.
Rescuers are unable to fly over the mountainous area of dense woods and steep valleys because of thick fog, so search parties are going out by foot, helped by dogs, drones and European Union satellites.
State media reported Raisi’s helicopter needed to make a “hard landing” and was involved in an incident close to the city of Jolfa, on Iran’s northwestern border with Azerbaijan. Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian was also reportedly on board the aircraft.
A hardline cleric and former head of the judiciary — a key center of conservative power — Raisi had been regularly mentioned as a potential successor to the 85-year-old Khamenei. If Raisi were to die, Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba, would likely be increasingly mentioned as frontrunner for the country’s top job.
Raisi, 63, was returning from a visit to the Azerbaijan border, where he met with President Ilham Aliyev. The pair cut the ribbon on a major dam along their shared border.
On Sunday evening, Aliyev issued a statement saying he was “deeply troubled” by the news. “As a neighbor, friend, and brotherly country, the Republic of Azerbaijan stands ready to offer any assistance needed.”
Speaking to the official IRNA news agency, emergency services ministry spokesman Babak Yektaparast said rescuers had been unable to reach the crash site by helicopter because of the weather. A convoy of eight ambulances has been dispatched, accompanied by doctors and paramedics, he added.
Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi told Iranian media that “relief groups are moving toward the area, but due to fog and bad weather it may take some time to reach the scene of the accident.”
Iran’s state-run IRINN news service reported that the crash site was located on rough, rocky terrain with 70-meter boulders blocking the path.
In an effort to help locate the stricken helicopter, the EU has activated its Copernicus emergency satellite mapping network, the bloc’s crisis management commissioner, Janez Lenarčič, has confirmed.
European Commission President Charles Michel said the bloc’s countries and partners were “monitoring the situation closely” given the condition of those on board the helicopter is “not yet clear.”
Senior Iranian officials have met to discuss the incident and spokesperson Ali Bahadri Jahromi said in a statement. Executive Vice President Mohammad Mokhber has left Tehran for the northwestern city of Tabriz, closer to the crash site, he added.
Reacting to the news, European Commission President Charles Michel said the bloc’s member states and partners were “monitoring the situation closely” given the condition of those on board the helicopter is “not yet clear.”
Speaking to Reuters, an unnamed Iranian official said that the lives of Raisi and Abdollahian could be at risk. “We are still hopeful, but information coming from the crash site is very concerning,” the official said. A story posted to Raisi’s official Instagram account asks Iranians to pray for him.
Further details are yet to be published and local media have issued a series of contradictory statements. Iran’s IRIB broadcaster reported that fears are growing that the incident is “serious” and that “there is a high possibility of injuries.”
Iran’s foreign policy is increasingly belligerent, with its leaders repeatedly threatening all-out war against Israel since the start of the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza and providing weaponry and political support to Russia. Last month, Iran launched a wave of drones against Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in what it said was revenge for a strike on its consulate in Syria that killed two top Revolutionary Guards commanders.
Iran’s government has also faced widespread protests, including those by the “Women, Life Freedom” movement after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in hospital after being arrested by the country’s morality police for not wearing her mandatory hijab in line with official standards. Public outrage saw tens of thousands take to the streets, creating an unprecedented crisis for Raisi’s theocratic government. Iran’s Human Rights Activists News Agency reported more than 500 demonstrators had been killed as part of a brutal police crackdown.

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