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What do we know so far about the mysterious crash of the helicopter carrying the Iranian president?

BEIRUT (AP) — The apparent crash of a helicopter carrying Iran’s president and foreign minister on Sunday sent shock waves through the region.

Details remained scarce in the hours following the incident, and it was unclear whether the Iranian president Ebrahim Raïssi and the other officials had survived.

Here’s what we know so far.

WHO WAS ON BOARD THE HELICOPTER AND WHERE WERE THEY GOING?

The helicopter was carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, the governor of Iran’s East Azerbaijan province and other officials and bodyguards, according to the official IRNA news agency. Raisi returned on Sunday from a trip to the Iranian border with Azerbaijan to inaugurate a dam with Azerbaijan. President Ilham Aliyevthe news agency said.

WHERE AND HOW DID THE HELICOPTER FALL?

The helicopter apparently crashed or made an emergency landing in the Dizmar forest, between the towns of Varzaqan and Jolfa, in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province, near the border with Azerbaijan, in circumstances which remain unclear. Initially, Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi said the helicopter “was forced to make a hard landing due to bad weather and fog.”

WHAT IS THE STATUS OF RESEARCH OPERATIONS?

Iranian officials said the mountainous, forested terrain and thick fog were hampering search and rescue operations. Iranian Red Crescent Society President Pir-Hossein Koulivand said 40 search teams were on the ground in the area despite “difficult weather conditions.” The searches are being carried out by teams on the ground because “weather conditions have made it impossible to conduct aerial searches” via drones, Koulivand said, according to IRNA.

IF RAISI DIED IN THE ACCIDENT, HOW MIGHT THIS IMPACT ON IRAN?

Raïssi is considered a protégé of the Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and a potential successor to his position within the country’s Shiite theocracy. According to Iran’s constitution, if he died, the country’s first vice president, Mohammad Mokhber, would become president. Khamenei publicly assured Iranians that there would be “no disruption to the country’s operations” following the accident.

WHAT WAS THE INTERNATIONAL REACTION?

Countries including Russia, Iraq and Qatar have made formal statements of concern over Raisi’s fate and offered assistance in search operations.

Azerbaijani President Aliyev said he was “deeply concerned” by the incident and asserted that Azerbaijan was ready to provide all necessary support. Relations between the two countries have remained cold due to Azerbaijan’s diplomatic ties with Israel, Iran’s archenemy in the region.

Saudi Arabia, which is traditionally a rival of Iran although the two countries have recently become closer, also expressed concern in a statement and said it “stands with Iran in these difficult circumstances “.

There was no immediate official reaction from Israel. Last month, following an Israeli strike on an Iranian consular building in Damascus that killed two Iranian generals, Tehran launched hundreds of missiles and drones at Israel. They were mostly shot dead and tensions have apparently since eased.

yahoo

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