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What we know so far about the helicopter crash that killed Iran’s president

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi died Sunday along with his foreign minister and other officials in a helicopter crash in northwestern Iran. According to state media, the country’s first vice-president, Mohammad Kokhber, has been named interim president. Here's what we know so far about the crash.

Iran's constitution says new presidential election should be called within 50 days

Iran's president killed in helicopter crash

19 hours ago

Duration 4:25

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, the country's foreign minister and several others were killed in a helicopter crash in mountainous terrain near the Azerbaijan border, officials and state media said on Monday. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran's First Vice-President Mohammad Mokhber would serve as the country's acting president until elections are held.

The helicopter crash that killed Iran's president and foreign minister has sent shock waves around the region.

Iranian state media on Monday said that President Ebrahim Raisi, the country's foreign minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, and others had been found dead after an hours-long search through a foggy, mountainous region of the country's northwest. State TV gave no immediate cause for the crash.

Here's what we know so far.

Who was on board and where were they going?

The helicopter on Sunday was carrying Raisi, Amirabdollahian, the governor of Iran's East Azerbaijan province and other officials, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.

Raisi was returning after travelling to Iran's border with Azerbaijan to inaugurate a dam with Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev when the crash occurred in the Dizmar forest in East Azerbaijan province.

IRNA said the crash killed eight people including three crew members aboard the Bell helicopter, which Iran purchased in the early 2000s.

How did the search operation go?

Iranian officials said the mountainous, forested terrain and heavy fog impeded search-and-rescue operations, which continued overnight.

The president of the Iranian Red Crescent Society, Pir-Hossein Koulivand, said Sunday evening that 40 search teams were on the ground despite "challenging weather conditions."

Rescue team members work at the crash site of a helicopter.

Because of the bad weather, it was "impossible to conduct aerial searches" via drones, Koulivand said, according to IRNA.

It was not until early Monday that officials announced the helicopter had been found and all of its occupants were dead.

How was the crash site found?

Early Monday, Turkish authorities released what they described as drone footage showing what appeared to be a fire in the wilderness that they "suspected to be wreckage of a helicopter." The co-ordinates listed in the footage put the fire about 20 kilometres south of the Azerbaijan-Iran border on the side of a steep mountain.

Rescuers walk in a mountainous region to look for helicopter wreckage.

Footage released by IRNA showed what the agency described as the crash site, across a steep valley in a mountain range. Soldiers speaking in the local Azeri language said: "There it is, we found it." Shortly after that, state TV in an on-screen scrolling text said: "There is no sign of life from people on board."

How will Raisi's death impact Iran?

Raisi was seen as a protege to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and a potential successor for his position within the country's Shia theocracy.

Under the Iranian constitution, if a president dies, the country's first vice-president — in this case, Mohammad Mokhber — would become president. Khamenei has publicly assured Iranians that there would be "no disruption to the operations of the country" as a result of the crash.

Khamenei has named Mokhber as the caretaker president in line with the constitution, which says a new presidential election should be called within 50 days.

WATCH | 'Mixed reaction' to Raisi's death, analyst says:

‘Mixed reaction’ to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi's death, analyst says

13 hours ago

Duration 4:31

The death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash on Sunday has been met with both grief and celebration. Raisi, who came to power in 2021, was an unpopular leader who oversaw a crackdown on anti-regime protests that created a ‘deep divide between the state and the society,' says Ali Vaez, the director of the Iran Project at the International Crisis Group.

What has the international reaction been?

After news broke of the search operation, countries including Russia, Iraq and Qatar made statements of concern about Raisi's fate and offered to assist in the search.

Azerbaijani President Aliyev offered any support necessary. Relations between the two countries have been chilly due to Azerbaijan's diplomatic relations with Israel, Iran's regional arch-enemy.

LISTEN | Why some Iranians are celebrating Raisi's death:

As It Happens6:55Why some Iranians are celebrating the death of President Ebrahim Raisi

Arash Azizi, a journalist and Middle East historian, says some Iranians are celebrating the death of President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash due to his role in the regime's bloody crackdown on dissent. Others, Azizi says, are shrugging it off because they feel the real power lies with Iran's supreme leader. Azizi, author of What Iranians Want, spoke to As It Happens guest host Peter Armstrong about what this means for the country's future.

Saudi Arabia, traditionally a rival of Iran although the two countries recently made a rapprochement, said it stands by "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 down and tensions have apparently subsided.

Two men shake hands while others watch.

The U.S., which has its own history of tensions with Tehran, also has yet to comment publicly on Raisi's death.

"This represents a monumental and irreparable strategic blow to the mullahs' Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the entire regime, notorious for its executions and massacres," Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of a Paris-based opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, said in a statement.

A government official on the left walks with a military guard.

A spokesperson for China's foreign minister issued a statement saying Chinese President Xi Jinping has "already sent a direct message to Iran's first vice-president, Mohammad Mokhber."

Xi said President Raisi made important contributions toward Iran's security and stability, and toward "developing the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and Iran," the statement said.

With files from Reuters

Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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