• Monday, June 24, 2024

ASIA

Iran president’s helicopter makes ‘hard landing’, says state TV

It was reported that decades of sanctions have hindered Tehran from buying new aircraft or obtaining parts, forcing the country to use outdated helicopters and planes.

Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran on April 17, 2024. (Photo by ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Shubham Ghosh

A HELICOPTER with Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi was involved in a “hard landing”, the country’s state television has reported, adding more details will follow as soon as search operations were underway for the aircraft.

According to the Middle Eastern nation’s state media, the incident occurred near Jolfa in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province on Sunday (19).

It was only a day ago that Raisi, 63, was in neighbouring Azerbaijan where he inaugurated a dam with Ilham Aliyev, his counterpart from the host nation.

The state media also said that while three helicopters were in the presidential convoy, two of them returned safely.

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Raisi was believed to be accompanied by his foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Ale-Hashem, representative of the Iranian supreme leader to the province.

Two other top Iranian ministers — Ali Akbar Mehrabian (energy) and Mehrdad Bazrpash (housing and transportation) were in the other helicopters that returned.

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According to Iran’s semi-official Tasnim News Agency, people who were with Raisi on board the helicopter made an emergency call. It reported that the call raised hopes that the incident went “without fatalities”.

Iranian interior minister Ahmad Vahidi told state television that a number of rescue teams were trying to reach the incident’s site, but fog and bad weather conditions could delay their progress.

While confirming that radio contact was made with the helicopter, he did not give further details, and suggested communication lines were not functional.

Iranian government news website IRNA, however, said that the president’s helicopter is believed to have crashed in the Dizmar Protected Area, a forested and mountainous zone.

“President Raisi was returning from a ceremony to open a dam on Iran’s border with Azerbaijan when his helicopter crashed upon landing in Varzaqan region on Sunday,” the IRNA report said, adding, “Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, Governor of East Azarbaijan Province Malek Rahmati, Tabriz Friday prayer leader Hojjatoleslam Al Hashem and a number of others were also on board the helicopter.”

While the type of the helicopter carrying the Iranian president was not known, decades of sanctions have made it difficult for Tehran to buy new aircraft or obtain parts and are compelled to use outdated helicopters and planes, increasing possibilities of accidents, Al Jazeera reported.

Raisi has been serving as Iran’s eighth president since August 2021.

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