Helicopter carrying Iran's hard-line president apparently crashes in foggy, mountainous region : The Tribune India

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Helicopter carrying Iran's hard-line president apparently crashes in foggy, mountainous region

Ebrahim Raisi was traveling in Iran's East Azerbaijan province

Helicopter carrying Iran's hard-line president apparently crashes in foggy, mountainous region

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi meets Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev on the Azerbaijan-Iran border. Reuters



AP

Dubai, May 19

A helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, the country's foreign minister and other officials apparently crashed in the mountainous northwest reaches of Iran on Sunday, sparking a massive rescue operation in a fog-shrouded forest as the public was urged to pray.

The likely crash came as Iran under Raisi and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei launched an unprecedented drone-and-missile attack on Israel last month and has enriched uranium closer than ever to weapons-grade levels.

Iran has also faced years of mass protests against its Shiite theocracy over an ailing economy and women's rights — making the moment that much more sensitive for Tehran and the future of the country as the Israel-Hamas war inflames the wider Middle East.

Raisi was traveling in Iran's East Azerbaijan province. State TV said what it called a “hard landing” happened near Jolfa, a city on the border with the nation of Azerbaijan, some 600 kilometers (375 miles) northwest of the Iranian capital, Tehran. Later, state TV put it farther east near the village of Uzi, but details remained contradictory.

Travelling with Raisi were 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. One local government official used the word “crash", but others referred to either a “hard landing” or an “incident”.

Neither IRNA nor state TV offered any information on Raisi's condition in the hours afterwards. However, hard-liners urged the public to pray for him. State TV later aired images of the faithful praying at Imam Reza Shrine in the city of Mashhad, one of Shiite Islam's holiest sites, as well as in Qom and other locations across the country. State television's main channel aired the prayers nonstop.

“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," Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi said in comments aired on state TV. "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.”

“The region is a bit (rugged) and it's difficult to make contact,” he added. "We are waiting for rescue teams to reach the landing site and give us more information.”  

IRNA called the area a “forest” and the region is known to be mountainous as well. State TV aired images of SUVs racing through a wooded area and said they were being hampered by poor weather conditions, including heavy rain and wind.

A rescue helicopter tried to reach the area where authorities believe Raisi's helicopter was, but it couldn't land due to the heavy mist, emergency services spokesman Babak Yektaparast told IRNA.

Long after the sun set, Iranian government spokesman Ali Bahadori Jahromi acknowledged that “we are experiencing difficult and complicated conditions” in the search. 

       

#Dubai


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