Two Members Of President Raisi’s Entourage Make Contact With Rescue Teams — Official

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Iran’s Deputy President for Executive Affairs Mohsen Mansouri has said that two members of President Ebrahim Raisi’s entourage have contacted rescue teams, and this shows that the air incident involving their helicopter has not been rough, reported the IRNA news agency.

This grab taken from handout video footage released by the IRINN Iranian state television network on May 19, 2024 shows Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi (L) with an unidentified member of his delegation on board a helicopter in the Jolfa region of the western province of East Azerbaijan. – A helicopter in the convoy of the Iranian president was involved in “an accident” in East Azerbaijan province on May 19, state televsion reported, without specifying if the president was on board. (Photo by IRINN / AFP)

Mansouri said on Sunday that the helicopter of President Raisi and two more copters were en route to the city of Tabriz after the president and his Azerbaijani counterpart inaugurated Qiz Qalasi Dam at the border between the two countries.

Half an hour into their flight, Raisi’s helicopter lost contact with the two other copters, which prompted them to search the area, Mansouri said, adding that two members of the president’s entourage contacted rescue teams, which shows that the incident has not been hard.

Another promising point is that the Ministry of Communications has been able to determine the location of the accident within a radius of two kilometers, he added.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has prayed for Raisi’s return.

Ayatollah Khamenei reacted to the news of the helicopter crash on Sunday in a meeting with families of the staff and commanders of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps.

While expressing sadness about the worrisome incident for the president and his entourage, Ayatollah Khamenei expressed hope that the Almighty God would return the president and his colleagues to the arms of the nation.

The leader said, however, that the Iranian people should stay calm and be confident that the incident would not impact the country’s routine operations.

“The Iranian nation shouldn’t be worried. There will be no disruption to the operations of the country,” said Ayatollah Khamenei.

Rescue efforts

More than 40 rescue teams using search dogs and drones were sent to the site, reported the IRNA news agency.

Raisi was visiting the province where he inaugurated a dam project together with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, on the border between the two countries.

Raisi’s convoy included three helicopters, and the other two had “reached their destination safely,” according to Tasnim news agency.

Foreign countries were closely following the search effort at a time of high regional tensions over the Gaza war between Israel and Hamas since October 7 that has drawn in other armed groups in the Middle East.

A US State Department spokesman said: “We are closely following reports of a possible hard landing of a helicopter in Iran carrying the Iranian president and foreign minister.

“We have no further comment at this time.”

– Thick fog and drizzle –

An Iranian Red Crescent team was seen walking up a slope in thick fog and drizzling rain, while other live footage showed worshippers reciting prayers in the holy city of Mashhad, Raisi’s hometown.

In neighbouring Iraq, Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani “instructed the interior ministry and the Iraqi Red Crescent and other relevant authorities to offer available resources… to aid in the search”.

Azeri President Aliyev said in a post on X that “we were profoundly troubled by the news of a helicopter carrying the top delegation crash-landing in Iran”.

“Our prayers to Allah Almighty are with President Ebrahim Raisi and the accompanying delegation,” he said, noting that his country “stands ready to offer any assistance needed”.

The accident happened in the mountainous protected forest area of Dizmar near the town of Varzaghan, said the official IRNA news agency.

Military personnel along with the Revolutionary Guards and police had also deployed teams to the area, said army chief-of-staff Mohammad Bagheri.

Iran’s Health Minister Bahram Eynollahi said medical resources had been dispatched.

The reformist Shargh daily also reported that “the helicopter carrying the president crashed” while two other helicopters had landed safely.

Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi said one of the helicopters “made a hard landing due to bad weather conditions” and that it was “difficult to establish communication” with the aircraft.

– Years of crisis –

Raisi has been president of the Islamic Republic since 2021 when he succeeded the moderate Hassan Rouhani, for a term during which Iran has faced crisis and conflict.

He took the reins of a country in the grip of a deep social crisis and an economy strained by US sanctions against Tehran over its contested nuclear programme.

Iran saw a wave of mass protests triggered by the death in custody of Iranian-Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in September 2022 after her arrest for allegedly flouting dress rules for women.

In March 2023, regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia signed a surprise deal that restored diplomatic relations.

Saudi Arabia on Sunday voiced “great concern” after Sunday incident, offering to help with the response.

“We affirm that the Kingdom stands by the sisterly Islamic Republic of Iran in these difficult circumstances and its readiness to provide any assistance that the Iranian agencies need,” the foreign ministry of the Gulf kingdom, a longtime rival of Iran, said in a statement.

The war in Gaza that broke out on October 7 sent regional tensions soaring again and a series of tit-for-tat escalations led to Tehran launching hundreds of missiles and rockets directly at Israel in April 2024.

In a speech following Sunday’s dam inauguration, Raisi emphasised Iran’s support for Palestinians, a centrepiece of its foreign policy since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

“We believe that Palestine is the first issue of the Muslim world, and we are convinced that the people of Iran and Azerbaijan always support the people of Palestine and Gaza and hate the Zionist regime,” said Raisi.

Raisi, born in 1960 in northeast Iran’s holy city of Mashhad, served as Tehran’s prosecutor-general from 1989 to 1994, deputy chief of the Judicial Authority for a decade from 2004, and then national prosecutor-general in 2014.

His black turban signifies direct descent from the Prophet Mohammed, and state media has referred to him by the senior title of ayatollah in the Shiite clerical hierarchy.

 

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