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Iranian president helicopter crash updates: Ebrahim Raisi and foreign minister dead

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Rescue efforts underway to find missing helicopter of Iran president

Iran has declared five days of mourning after president Ebrahim Raisi was killed in a helicopter crash amid heavy fog in northern Iran, as world leaders share their reactions.

Rescuers found the helicopter that was carrying the Iranian president, as well as the country’s foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and other senior officials, after it crashed in a mountainous northwest region of Iran.

Minutes after the Red Crescent Society announced its team had reached the site of the crash, state TV reported that there were “no signs of life” and an official said the helicopter had been “completely burned”.

The state-run Mehr news agency then announced that the president and foreign minister had been “martyred”.

Iran’s first vice president Mohammad Mokhber will take charge of the executive branch and has a maximum period of 50 days to hold elections following the death of president Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said.

China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin were among leaders to share their reactions on Monday morning, both of whom lamented the death of their “good friend”.

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Who was on board the helicopter?

The helicopter was carrying Iran’s president Ebrahim Raisi, foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, the governor of Iran’s East Azerbaijan province and others officials, according to the state-run Irna news agency.

Mr 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.

The crash killed eight people in all, including three crew members aboard the Bell helicopter, which Iran purchased in the early 2000s, Irna reported.

Andy Gregory20 May 2024 14:50

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Taliban ‘grieving’ over death of Raisi

The Taliban has said they were deeply saddened by the deaths of Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi and the country’s foreign minister.

“We share our grief with the Islamic Republic of Iran and the people of that country and offer our condolences to all the families of the victims, the nation and the government of Iran,” the Taliban prime minister, Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, said in a statement.

Andy Gregory20 May 2024 14:23

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‘Pity’ Netanyahu wasn’t on Iran president’s chopper, university official says

The chair of Tel Aviv University’s Executive Council said he thought it was a “pity” Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was not onboard the helicopter crash that crashed and killed Iran’s president Ebrahim Raisi.

“A pity Netanyahu was not on the helicopter too. One accident can solve many problems for us and the world,” Eli Gelman wrote in a private WhatsApp group, with a link to an article about the accident.

In response to a comment in the group calling for him to delete the post, Gelman doubled down on his comment.

Alexander Butler20 May 2024 14:13

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Russia can assist Iran with probe into helicopter crash, says Shoigu

Russia can assist Iran with its investigation into the helicopter crash, the secretary of Russia’s security council Sergei Shoigu has said, according to the state RIA news agency.

Andy Gregory20 May 2024 14:05

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Ex-Iranian minister blames US sanctions for fatal crash

Aircraft in Iran face a shortage of parts, often flying without safety checks against the backdrop of Western sanctions. Because of that, former Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif sought to blame the United States for the fatal helicopter crash.

“One of the main culprits of yesterday’s tragedy is the United States, which … embargoed the sale of aircraft and aviation parts to Iran and does not allow the people of Iran to enjoy good aviation facilities,” Mr Zarif said. “These will be recorded in the list of US crimes against the Iranian people.”

Raisi was flying in a US-made Bell 212 helicopter, according to reports.

(MOJ News Agency/AFP via Getty Images)

Andy Gregory20 May 2024 13:47

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Many Iranians celebrating death of Raisi, exiled dissident says

Exiled Iranian women’s rights activist Masih Alinejad said her social media feeds were “flooded with videos of the family members of those killed by the President of the Islamic Republic, celebrating his death”.

The dissident said Raisi’s death “will increase the pressures on the regime as it faces internal and international challenges”.

Andy Gregory20 May 2024 13:28

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Top Sunni religious institution mourns deaths in Iran

Al-Azhar al-Sharif, the Sunni world’s foremost seat of religious learning, has expressed mourning over the deaths of Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi and others killed in the helicopter crash.

In a statement, Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb – the grand imam of Cairo-based Al-Azhar – extended his condolences to the Iranian people and the families of the victims.

Al-Azhar is a top religious institution across the Muslim world. A 1,000-year-old university of scholar-clerics, it teaches new generations of Sunni clerics and produces research that for many spells out what being a Muslim entails.

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Iran regime publishes more photographs of rescue attempt

More photographs appearing to show the rescue attempt have been published by the Iranian regime.

(MOJ News Agency/AFP via Getty Im)
(MOJ News Agency/AFP via Getty Im)
(MOJ News Agency/AFP via Getty Im)

Andy Gregory20 May 2024 12:53

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Putin holds phone call with Raisi’s acting successor

Vladimir Putin has held a phone call with Iran’s new acting president Mohammad Mokhber, telling him that his late predecessor had been a reliable partner to Russia, the state RIA news agency reports.

(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Andy Gregory20 May 2024 12:24

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Mapped: Where did Iran President Ebrahim Raisi’s helicopter crash?

The helicopter carrying Iran’s president Ebrahim Raisi took off from the Khodaafarin Dam, in the Iranian province of East Azerbaijan, on Sunday afternoon.

Raisi, along with Iran’s foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, had been taking part in the inauguration of the dam alongside the president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev.

But the helicopter later crashed in a remote and mountainous region in the Arasbaran Forest, near the border with Azerbaijan in the Varzeqan region.

My colleague Tom Watling has more on the location of the crash:

Andy Gregory20 May 2024 11:58

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