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Iran's president dies in helicopter crash

  • : Crude oil
  • 24/05/20

Iran's president Ebrahim Raisi has died in a helicopter crash alongside his foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, state media reported early today.

The two were confirmed dead more than 12 hours after news broke on 19 May afternoon that a helicopter carrying them had suffered "a hard landing" in Iran's East Azerbaijan province as he was returning from Azerbaijan, where he had inaugurated the Qiz Qalasi dam, alongside his Azeri counterpart Ilham Aliyev.

"Ayatollah Seyed Ebrahim Raisi, the eighth president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, who had an air accident on Sunday evening as he was returning to [the Iranian city of] Tabriz from the inauguration ceremony of the Qiz Qalasi dam…reached martyrdom, along with his companions," Iran's state news agency Irna reported.

The governor of Iran's East Azerbaijan province, Malek Rahmati, and Ayatollah Mohammad Ali al-Hashem, the representative to the province of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei were also on board the helicopter.

More than 50 search and rescue teams were dispatched, with support from allied countries, including Russia. Moscow said on 19 May it had sent 47 specialists, all-terrain vehicles and a BO-105 helicopter.

Difficult weather conditions, nightfall, and the mountainous terrain had "complicated efforts" by the search and rescue teams to first locate the exact site of the crash, and then reach it, said Iran's interior minister Ahmad Vahidi.

But officials on 20 May reported that the search had narrowed, with the head of Iran's Red Crescent Pir Hossein Kolivand confirming at around 06:00 local time (02:30 GMT) that the wreckage had been found. On arriving at the site, rescuers confirmed that there were "no signs of life."

Images shared by state media showed only the helicopter's tail had remained intact, with the entirety of the helicopter's cabin significantly damaged and charred. The investigation into the cause of the crash is continuing, but all Iranian officials are pointing to the bad weather as the primary reason for the helicopter losing control.

Iran's cabinet held an extraordinary meeting in the aftermath of announcement of the president's death. This was chaired by the country's first vice president Mohammad Mokhber, who will assume the president's powers and functions with the approval of the supreme leader, as per the constitution.

A council, consisting of the speaker of the parliament, head of the judiciary and the first vice president, will now be obliged to arrange for a new president to be elected within a maximum of 50 days. This requires that an election now be held on or before 9 July.

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