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Helicopter carrying Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi suffers 'hard landing' in Azerbaijan: Reports

A helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi suffered a “hard landing” on Sunday, Iranian state television reported, without immediately elaborating.

Edited By: Ajeet Kumar @Ajeet1994 Tehran Updated on: May 19, 2024 20:48 IST
Iran President Ebrahim Raisi
Image Source : AP Iran President Ebrahim Raisi

In a major development, one helicopter in a convoy of three in which Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was travelling was involved in an accident, Iranian state TV said on Sunday. State TV did not give any further details about the incident. 

According to the Iranian news agency, IRNA, Raisi met his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev earlier today and inaugurated Qiz Qalasi Dam jointly built by the two sides. Raisi was travelling in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province. State TV said the incident happened near Jolfa, a city on the border with the nation of Azerbaijan, some 600 kilometres northwest of the Iranian capital, Tehran.

Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi reacts

Raisi was accompanied by Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, the governor of Iran's East Azerbaijan province and other officials and bodyguards, the state-run IRNA news agency reported. Althpugh one local government official used the word “crash” to describe the incident, but he acknowledged to an Iranian newspaper that he had yet to reach the site himself. 

Meanwhile, round of prayers has been started. State TV aired images of the faithful praying at Imam Reza Shrine in the city of Mashhad, one of Shiite Islam's holiest sites. 

Speaking about the incident, Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi said, “The esteemed president and company were on their way back aboard some helicopters and one of the helicopters was forced to make a hard landing due to the bad weather and fog,"  "Various rescue teams are on their way to the region but because of the poor weather and fogginess it might take time for them to reach the helicopter", he added.

Rescue operation hampered due to bad weather

Rescuers were attempting to reach the site, state TV said, but had been hampered by poor weather conditions in the area. There had been heavy rain reported with some wind. 

Iran flies a variety of helicopters in the country, but international sanctions make it difficult to obtain parts for them. Its military air fleet also largely dates back to before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Who is Ebrahim Raisi?

Raisi, 63, is a hard-liner who formerly led the country’s judiciary. He is viewed as a protégé of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and some analysts have suggested he could replace the 85-year-old leader after his death or resignation from the role.

Raisi won Iran's 2021 presidential election, a vote that saw the lowest turnout in the Islamic Republic’s history. Raisi is sanctioned by the U.S. in part over his involvement in the mass execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988 at the end of the bloody Iran-Iraq war.

Under Raisi, Iran now enriches uranium at nearly weapons-grade levels and hampers international inspections. Iran has armed Russia in its war on Ukraine, as well as launched a massive drone and missile attack on Israel amid its war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. It also has continued arming proxy groups in the Mideast, like Yemen's Houthi rebels and Lebanon's Hezbollah.

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