Iran’s president along with his foreign minister have died in a helicopter crash, according to state media. Here is a summary of what we know so far:

Iranian state-run media have confirmed the death of President Ebrahim Raisi and foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in a helicopter crash in the province of East Azerbaijan on Sunday as they headed towards the city of Tabriz. “The servant of Iranian nation, Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi has achieved the highest level of martyrdom whilst serving the people,” state television said.

The group were returning from Azerbaijan, where they had attended the inauguration of a dam alongside President Ilham Aliyev, when the helicopter crashed in a mountainous region amid poor weather conditions.

The government has yet to make an official statement but the state-run news agency Irna reported that an urgent cabinet meeting had been called and a statement was expected soon.

After an hours-long search hampered by fog and rain, rescuers found the burnt-out wreckage of the helicopter on a mountainside. The head of the Iranian Red Crescent, Pir Hossein Kolivand, said as rescuers approached the wreckage, that there were “no signs of life”.

A total of nine people were on board the aircraft, according to Tasnim news agency, including the governor of East Azerbaijan, Malek Rahmati, and Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Ale-Hashem, the representative of the Leader of the Islamic Revolution to East Azarbaijan province.

On Sunday, before the wreckage had been found, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged Iranians to “not worry” about the leadership of the Islamic republic, saying “there will be no disruption in the country’s work”.

The president is believed to have been travelling in Bell 212 helicopter. Iran flies a variety of helicopters in the country, but international sanctions make it difficult to obtain parts for them. Its military air fleet also largely dates back to before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

If a president dies in office, article 131 of the Islamic Republic’s constitution says that the first vice-president – in this case Mohammad Mokhber – takes over, with the confirmation of the supreme leader, who has the final say in all matters of state in Iran. A council consisting of the first vice-president, the speaker of parliament and the head of the judiciary must arrange an election for a new president within a maximum period of 50 days.

Countries including Russia, Turkey and India had expressed concern and offered assistance after reports that the helicopter carrying Raisi had gone missing. After his death was confirmed expressions of condolence also began to come in.

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi said on X that he is “shocked by his tragic demise” and that his “contribution to strengthening India-Iran bilateral relationship will always be remembered.

Before news of Raisi’s death a US state department spokesperson said only that, “We are closely following reports of a possible hard landing of a helicopter in Iran carrying the Iranian president and foreign minister”. US President Joe Biden had been briefed on the situation, his spokesperson said.

Source » theguardian