ISLAMABAD: A helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his foreign minister crashed on Sunday as it was crossing mountain terrain in heavy fog, an Iranian official told Reuters, and rescuers were struggling to reach the site of the incident. The official said the lives of Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian were “at risk following the helicopter crash”, which happened on the way back from a visit to the border with Azerbaijan in Iran’s northwest. “We are still hopeful but information coming from the crash site is very concerning,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. Besides the president and FM, Governor of East Azarbaijan Province Malek Rahmati, Tabriz Friday prayer leader Hojjatoleslam Al Hashem and a number of others were also on board the ill-fated helicopter, state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. The state TV said bad weather was the cause of the crash and was complicating rescue efforts. The chief of staff of Iran’s army ordered all the resources of the army and the elite Revolutionary Guard to be put to use in search and rescue operations. “It is dark and it has started raining, but the search continues. Rescue teams have reached the area … however, the rain has created mud, making the search difficult,” a local reporter told the state-run TV. It had earlier stopped all its regular programming to show prayers being held for Raisi across the country and, in a corner of the screen, live coverage of rescue teams deployed on foot in the mountainous area in heavy fog. The rescue teams were expected to reach the probable site of the crash later on Sunday evening. Earlier, Iran’s interior minister confirmed one of the helicopters in president’s convoy had a rough landing. Sunday’s accident happened in the mountainous protected forest area of Dizmar near the town of Varzaghan, said the official IRNA news agency. Raisi was visiting East Azerbaijan province where he inaugurated a dam project together with his Azeri counterpart, Ilham Aliyev, on the border between the two countries. His convoy included three helicopters, and the other two had “reached their destination safely,” according to Tasnim news agency. The reformist Shargh daily also reported that “the helicopter carrying the president crashed” while two other helicopters landed safely. Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged Iranians on Sunday to “not worry” for the country after state media said a helicopter carrying Raisi had an accident. “The Iranian people should not worry, there will be no disruption in the country’s work,” Khamenei said in a speech carried on state TV. “We hope that Almighty God will bring our dear president and his companions back in full health into the arms of the nation.” Soon after the reports of chopper crash involving Raisi, the US State Department is closely watching reports regarding the accident, a spokesperson said. Raisi, 63, has been president of the Islamic Republic since June 2021. The Iranian leader took the reins of the country when the gulf nation was in the grip of a deep social crisis and an economy strained by US sanctions against Tehran over its contested nuclear programme.



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