Iranians mourn president Raisi's death in helicopter crash - GulfToday

Iranians mourn president Raisi's death in helicopter crash


People hold up posters of President Ebrahim Raisi during a mourning ceremony for him at Vali-e-Asr square in downtown Tehran on Monday. AP

Iranians on Monday mourned the death of President Ebrahim Raisi when his helicopter crashed into a fog-shrouded mountain, setting off a period of political uncertainty in the Islamic republic.

Raisi, 63, his foreign minister and seven others died when the aircraft went down on Sunday in a remote area of northwestern Iran, where the wreckage was only found on Monday morning.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared five days of mourning and said vice president Mohammad Mokhber, 68, would assume interim presidential duties until elections are held within 50 days.

"The Iranian nation has lost a sincere and valuable servant," said 85-year-old Khamenei, whom Raisi had been expected to one day succeed by many observers.

Mourning-Iranians People pray for Ebrahim Raisi following the crash of a helicopter carrying him, in Tehran. Reuters

Thousands of mourners massed in central Tehran's Valiasr Square to pay their respects to Raisi as well as to Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

Funeral rites were set to start Tuesday in Tabriz, East Azerbaijan province, for them and the other victims — three crew, two bodyguards, an imam and a provincial governor — before Raisi's body was to be taken to Tehran.

Iran-mourning A woman prays for Ebrahim Raisi following the crash of a helicopter carrying him, in Tehran. Reuters

Iran's military chief of staff Mohammad Bagheri ordered "a high-ranking committee to launch an investigation into the cause of the president's helicopter crash".

Flags at half-mast

State TV broke the news early on Monday that "the servant of the Iranian nation, Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi, has achieved the highest level of martyrdom", showing pictures of him as a voice recited the Holy Quran.

Mourning-Iranianwomen People gather to mourn for the death of Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran.

Flags soon flew at half-mast and a black banner was hoisted at a major Shiite shrine in city of Qom south of Tehran.
Global allies Russia and China and regional powers voiced their condolences, as did Nato, while the UN Security Council observed a minute of silence.

Lost in fog and rain

Iranian authorities first raised the alarm on Sunday afternoon when they lost contact with Raisi's helicopter as it returned from a border meeting with Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev to inaugurate a dam.

Only two of the convoy's three helicopters landed in Tabriz, setting off a massive search and rescue effort, with multiple foreign governments soon offering help.
Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi at first spoke of a "hard landing" and urged citizens to ignore hostile foreign media channels and get their information "only from state television."

Iran-helicoptercrash Rescue team members work at the crash site of a helicopter carrying  Ebrahim Raisi in Varzaghan. AFP

Guards, army and police personnel joined the search as Red Crescent teams trudged up a steep hillside in the rain while rows of emergency services vehicles waited nearby.

As the sun rose on Monday, rescue crews said they had located the destroyed Bell-212 helicopter, with no survivors.

State TV reported that the aircraft had "hit a mountain and disintegrated" on impact, and the Red Crescent soon confirmed that "the search operations have come to an end."

Agence France-Presse

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