IMPORTANT: Israel Assassination? – Iran helicopter crash live news: President Raisi, FM on missing aircraft

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By Abubakr Al-Shamahi, Usaid Siddiqui and Maziar Motamedi

Published On 19 May 2024

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian on board the helicopter that suffered a “hard landing” in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province, says Iranian state media.

Adverse weather conditions, including heavy fog, are hampering rescue efforts and the helicopter is still missing.

Iran’s Fars News Agency calls on Iranians to pray for President Raisi.
A map of the site of a helicopter crash involving Iran’s President Raisi
Approximate location of crash site [Al Jazeera]

31m ago (21:30 GMT)
US congressman gloats over Raisi crash
Commenting on unconfirmed reports that the Iranian president was harmed in the crash, Republican Congressman Mike Waltz appeared to welcome the purported news.

“Good riddance. Raisi was a murderous human rights abuser before and during his Presidency,” Waltz wrote in a social media post.

“But look for the Iranian regime to blame Israel and the US for an assassination as another excuse to support terrorism.”

US officials are being very careful with their wording and we haven’t had any further comments from them since being told that President Biden has been briefed on the situation.

The US State Department said they are indeed closely monitoring these reports.

This is happening at a particularly sensitive time. Just last week, we heard reports of US and Iranian officials meeting indirectly in Oman. The topic of those conversations was how to contain the current Israeli war in Gaza.

And of course, we know that as Iran continues to suffer with its economy, much of the blame has been put on the US sanctions that have really crippled the Iranian economy.

1h ago (21:00 GMT)
Turkey’s Erdogan offers Iran support
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he was “profoundly saddened” at the news of the helicopter accident involving Iran’s President Raisi.

“We are following the incident closely, are in contact and in coordination with the Iranian authorities, and we are ready to provide all necessary support,” Erdogan posted on X.

WATCH: President Raisi’s helicopter crashes in Iran – What we know so far
The Iranian Red Crescent has denied earlier state media reports that they have reached the crash site of President Ebrahim Raisi’s helicopter.

Here is what we know so far:

Iran a country of ‘substance’ and ‘durability’
Analyst Rami Khouri says that the Iranian government may be unpopular among many, but still gains a grudging respect for its strength domestically and in the wider region.

“It is a country of some substance and durability,” Khouri, a professor at the American University of Beirut, told Al Jazeera.

“I think the real story here is the appreciation regionally and globally, for the manner in which Iran has really mastered the process of statehood and nationalism – in a way better than many of the other countries in the region. It has internal processes of limited pluralism and contestation among different groups, but they ultimately make decisions and they stick by them.”

1h ago (20:15 GMT)
‘We hope for good news’ Iranian official tells Al Jazeera
An unnamed Iranian official has told Al Jazeera that specialised teams are attempting to quickly reach the site of the accident after receiving a signal from the helicopter.

“We cannot confirm any information related to the president and those who were with him, and the searches are continuing vigorously,” the official said.

“We have a constitution that governs the country and there is no need to worry about any scenario that may happen,” he added.

2h ago (20:00 GMT)
IRGC chief commander heads to crash area
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander-in-chief Hossein Salami has arrived at the general area of the crash to help lead search-and-rescue efforts.

A crisis management meeting is in session with top IRGC commanders, ministers, the first vice president and local officials, according to state media.

2h ago (19:45 GMT)
Turkey sends mountain rescue teams to Iran: Emergency agency
Turkey is sending 32 mountain rescue specialists to help Iran in the search for the helicopter carrying President Raisi, the government’s emergency aid agency AFAD has said.

The team and 32 vehicles have been deployed from centres in eastern Turkey, said AFAD in a post on X.

It added that Iran had requested the use of a helicopter with night vision.

2h ago (19:30 GMT)
News of crash comes amid ‘very critical moment’ for region
Sami Nader of the Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs says the crash comes as a “real shock” for people in Lebanon.

“This event comes at a very critical moment with what the region is going through, with what Lebanon is going through, because of what’s happening in Gaza,” he told Al Jazeera.

“Let’s recall as well that it comes at a moment where the negotiations concerning the nuclear deal are facing a dead end,” he added.

2h ago (19:23 GMT)
Armed forces received signals from crash site: Report
Signals have been reportedly detected by the armed forces from the helicopter and the mobile phone of a member of the flight crew.

“We are now moving toward the area with all military forces and I hope we can give good news to the people,” Asghar Abbasgholizadeh, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Eastern Azerbaijan, was quoted as saying by Tasnim.

“The area no longer has capacity for more forces.”

2h ago (19:15 GMT)
Analysis
Raisi ‘very loyal’ to ruling system in Iran
Analyst Ali Akbar Dareini says President Raisi was trusted in Iranian politics, including by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

“He is a very loyal politician to the ruling system. Iran’s supreme leader trusts him very much,” Dareini, a fellow at the Center for Strategic Studies in Tehran, told Al Jazeera.

“For the first time in decades, the government in power has no serious differences with other branches of power in Iran, and that has allowed Iran to make very strong decisions on the international stage.”

However, Dareini added that he does not foresee any major crisis in the country. “Iran has a strong political system, and there will be a smooth transition if, God forbid, anything bad has happened.”

2h ago (19:05 GMT)
Bell 212: The missing helicopter carrying Iran’s president
Images and videos have confirmed that Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his companions were riding a US-manufactured Bell 212 helicopter.

The two-blade aircraft is a medium-sized helicopter that has a 15-seat capacity, with one pilot and 14 passengers.

It is unclear how many people are on Raisi’s helicopter, including flight crew and potential security personnel.

3h ago (18:55 GMT)
Russia ready to help: Foreign ministry
“Russia is ready to extend all necessary help in the search for the missing helicopter and the investigation of the reasons for the incident,” RIA quoted a foreign ministry spokesperson as saying.

3h ago (18:45 GMT)
European Commission activates satellite mapping to assist with search
The European Commission is activating a satellite mapping service to aid search efforts, following a request for assistance from Iran, the European commissioner for crisis management said.

The European Commission’s Copernicus Emergency Management Service provides mapping products based on satellite imagery.

Crisis management commissioner Janez Lenarcic said on X that the service was activating its “rapid response mapping service in view of the helicopter accident”.

3h ago (18:35 GMT)
Developing
Unfavourable weather conditions expected to persist
A local weather official says the area where the president’s helicopter went down is expected to keep seeing rain and dense fog through the night.

“In the area of the village of Uzi a combination of rain and winds will be seen, and the wind is blowing at around 10 kilometres per hour (6 mph),” Habib Abdoli, the head of East Azerbaijan’s weather forecast authority, was quoted as saying by state media.

3h ago (18:31 GMT)
Developing
Red Crescent denies reports helicopter found
An official with the Iranian Red Crescent who is in the area where search operations are ongoing says “local media” were behind unconfirmed reports that the helicopter had been found.

A state television reporter in the area also quoted Energy Minister Ali Akbar Mehrabian as saying there have been no updates.

But the reporter said search and rescue teams are believed to be within two kilometres (one mile) of an area where there is a possibility of the helicopter being found.

3h ago (18:25 GMT)

US aware of crash but no further comment

Sources at the US State Department have said they are aware of reports of the helicopter going down somewhere between Tabriz and Tehran, the Iranian capital.

But beyond that, the State Department doesn’t have any comment on the situation. It’s important to remember that since 1979, the United States and Iran have not enjoyed diplomatic relations.

If there are any engagements between the two governments it’s through third parties.

And certainly the US would not be offering any assistance to help in the search for the helicopter carrying the Iranian president, as would be the case of an allied helicopter going down.

Source: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/liveblog/2024/5/19/iran-helicopter-accident-live-president-fm-on-missing-aircraft



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