What do we know so far about the helicopter crash that killed Iran's president and others?

FILE - Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi addresses a ceremony marking anniversary of the death of the late Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, shown in the poster in background, who was killed in Iraq in a U.S. drone attack in 2020, at Imam Khomeini Grand Mosque in Tehran, Iran on Jan. 3, 2023. President Raisi, the country's foreign minister and others have been found dead at the site of a helicopter crash Monday, May 20, 2024, after an hourslong search through a foggy, mountainous region of the country's northwest, state media reported. - AP

TEHERAN / BEIRUT (AP): The helicopter crash that killed Iran’s president and foreign minister has sent shock waves around the region.

Iranian state media said on Monday that President Ebrahim Raisi, the country’s foreign minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, and others have been found dead at the site after an hourslong search through a foggy, mountainous region of the country’s northwest.

Here’s what we know so far.

The helicopter was carrying Raisi, Amirabdollahian, the governor of Iran’s East Azerbaijan province and other officials and bodyguards, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.

Raisi was returning on Sunday after traveling to Iran’s border with Azerbaijan to inaugurate a dam with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev when the crash happened in the Dizmar forest in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province, under circumstances that remain unclear.

Iranian officials have said the mountainous, forested terrain and heavy fog impeded search-and-rescue operations, which began on Sunday. The president of the Iranian Red Crescent Society, Pir-Hossein Koulivand, said 40 search teams were on the ground despite "challenging weather conditions.”

Because of the bad weather, it was "impossible to conduct aerial searches” via drones, Koulivand said, according to IRNA.

Early on Monday, Turkish authorities released what they described as drone footage showing what appeared to be a fire in the wilderness that they "suspected to be wreckage of a helicopter.” The coordinates listed in the footage put the fire some 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of the Azerbaijan-Iranian border on the side of a steep mountain.

Footage released by IRNA showed what the agency described as the crash site, across a steep valley in a green mountain range. Soldiers speaking in the local Azeri language said: "There it is, we found it.” Shortly after, state TV in an on-screen scrolling text said: "There is no sign of life from people on board.”

Raisi was seen as a protégé to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and a potential successor for his position within the country’s Shiite theocracy.

Under the Iranian constitution, if a president dies, the country’s first vice president - in this case, Mohammad Mokhber - would become president. Khamenei has publicly assured Iranians that there would be "no disruption to the operations of the country” as a result of the crash.

After the news first broke of the search operation, countries including Russia, Iraq and Qatar made formal statements of concern about Raisi’s fate and offered to assist in the search.

Azerbaijani President Aliyev offered any support necessary. Relations between the two countries have been chilly due to Azerbaijan’s diplomatic relations with Israel, Iran's regional arch-enemy.

Saudi Arabia, traditionally a rival of Iran although the two countries have recently made a rapprochement, said it stands by "Iran in these difficult circumstances.”

There was no immediate official reaction from Israel. Last month, following an Israeli strike on an Iranian consular building in Damascus that killed two Iranian generals, Tehran launched hundreds of missiles and drones at Israel. They were mostly shot down and tensions have apparently since subsided. - AP

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Iran , Shock News , President Dead , Plane , Crash


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