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Helicopter carrying Iranian president suffers ‘hard landing’: report

A helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi suffered a “hard landing” on Sunday (May 19), Iranian state television reported. He was traveling in the Iranian province of East Azerbaijan. According to reports, the incident took place near Jolfa, the border town with Azerbaijan, about 600 km from the capital Tehran.

Iranian state television reported that rescuers were dispatched to the site, but their efforts were hampered by poor weather conditions in the area. Heavy rain was reported.

Raisi was in Azerbaijan on Sunday to inaugurate a dam with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. The West Asian country operates a wide variety of helicopters, but international sanctions make it difficult to obtain spare parts. Its military air fleet largely dates back to the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Read also : Iran attacks Israel in what UN calls ‘serious escalation’ of conflict

Raisi, 63, is a hardliner who once ran the country’s justice system. He is considered a protégé of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and some analysts have suggested he could replace the 85-year-old leader after his death or resignation.

Raisi won Iran’s 2021 presidential election, a vote that saw the lowest turnout in the history of the Islamic Republic. Raisi is sanctioned by the United States in part for his involvement in the mass execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988, at the end of the bloody Iran-Iraq War.

Under Raisi, Iran is now enriching uranium to near weapons-making levels and obstructing international inspections, according to reports. Iran has armed Russia in its war against Ukraine and launched a massive drone and missile attack on Israel as part of its war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. It also continued to arm proxy groups in the Middle East, such as Yemen’s Houthi rebels and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

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