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Iranian president Raisi killed in helicopter crash

Vice President Mokhber to replace Raisi ahead of snap election

Published: 20:03, 20 May 2024

Iranian president Raisi killed in helicopter crash

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his foreign minister were killed in a helicopter crash in mountainous terrain and icy weather, an Iranian official said on Monday, after search teams located the wreckage in East Azerbaijan province.

 

"President Raisi, the foreign minister and all the passengers in the helicopter were killed in the crash," the senior Iranian official told Reuters, asking not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

 

Iran's Mehr news agency confirmed the deaths, reporting that "all passengers of the helicopter carrying the Iranian president and foreign minister were martyred.”

 

An Iranian official earlier told Reuters the helicopter carrying Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian was completely burned in the crash on Sunday.

 

State TV reported that images from the site showed the aircraft slammed into a mountain peak, although there was no official word on the cause of the crash.

 

State news agency IRNA said Raisi was flying in a US-made Bell 212 helicopter.

 

Raisi, 63, was elected president in 2021, and since taking office had ordered a tightening of morality laws, overseen a bloody crackdown on anti-government protests and pushed hard in nuclear talks with world powers.

 

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds ultimate power with a final say on foreign policy and Iran's nuclear program, had earlier sought to reassure Iranians, saying there would be no disruption to state affairs.

 

Rescue teams fought blizzards and difficult terrain through the night to reach the wreckage in the early hours of Monday.

 

“With the discovery of the crash site, no signs of life have been detected among the helicopter's passengers,” the head of Iran’s Red Crescent, Pirhossein Kolivand, told state TV.

 

Earlier, the national broadcaster had stopped all regular programming to show prayers being held for Raisi across the country.

 

In the early hours of Monday, it showed a rescue team, wearing bright jackets and head torches, huddled around a GPS device as they searched a pitch-black mountainside on foot in a blizzard.

 

Several countries expressed concern and offered assistance in any rescue.

 

The White House said US President Joe Biden had been briefed on reports about the crash. China said it was deeply concerned. The European Union offered emergency satellite mapping technology.

Meanwhile, the Iran’s first vice president, Mohammad Mokhber, is expected assume the presidency after Ebrahim Raisi’s death in a helicopter crash as the country gears up for early elections.

The Iranian constitution stipulates that the first vice president take over ‘in the event of the president’s death, dismissal, resignation, absence or illness for more than two months’.

Raisi, who died on Sunday along with Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and other officials, was nearing the end of his first four-year term as president.

Mokhber’s interim appointment requires the approval of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final word in all state affairs.

Presidential elections to pick a permanent successor are to be held within 50 days, according to the constitution.

A council made up of the parliament speaker, head of the judiciary and the vice president are to be tasked with organising the national vote.

Mokhber, 68, was appointed vice president as Raisi took office in August 2021.

The vice president was born in Dezful city in the southwestern province of Khuzestan, where he held several official positions.

For years since 2007, Mokhber chaired the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order, a governmental organisation tasked with managing properties confiscated following the 1979 Islamic revolution.

The foundation, established in the 1980s, has over the years grown to become a major state economic conglomerate with shares in various sectors.

Iranians head to the polls for presidential elections every four years since the Islamic republic’s first vote in 1980.

The constitution sets a two-term limit for Iranian presidents.

The position of prime minister does not exist in Iran, and the president -- assisted by several vice presidents -- is responsible for appointing and directing the cabinet.

 

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