Iran’s President Death: No Signal From Crashed Helicopter – Turkish Minister

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  • Initial investigation indicates aging aircraft malfunctioned 

Emerging reports indicate that the helicopter that crashed on Sunday killing the Iranian President, Ebrahim Raisi, and the Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, either did not have a transponder fitted or had it turned off.

According to an initial investigation by the Turkish rescue group that found the wreckage, the helicopter did not have its signal system turned on or did not possess such a system, even as the Turkish Transport Minister, Abdulkadir Uraloğlu told reporters that since Iran fell within Turkey’s area of responsibility for emergency response, authorities had checked for a signal from the helicopter upon hearing news that it had crashed.

Uraloğlu said the Turkish authorities checked for a signal from the helicopter’s transponder that broadcasts height and location information, “But unfortunately, [we think] most likely the transponder system was turned off or that the helicopter did not have one”.

Also, reports have emerged that the Iranian government had been urged in a memo by officials to purchase two Russian helicopters for its leaders amid concerns over the maintenance of its fleet of aging helicopters.

With Iran offering no cause for the crash nor suggesting that sabotage brought down the helicopter, which fell into mountainous terrain in a sudden, intense fog, official information showed that the late President was traveling in a Bell 212 helicopter, a two-blade aircraft capable of carrying 15 people.

Iran flies a variety of helicopters in the country, but international sanctions make it difficult to obtain parts for them while its military air fleet also largely dates back to before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Former Foreign Affairs Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif blamed US sanctions for making it difficult to purchase spares for the fleet, adding that the crash would be “recorded in the blacklist of American crimes against the Iranian nation”.

Meanwhile, an investigation team has already arrived at the crash site in the province of East Azerbaijan and will be examining if weather checks were made before the decision to fly was taken. The two other helicopters in the group completed the journey safely, and so far, there has been no serious allegation of sabotage.

Five days of mourning have been announced, with the president’s funeral to be held on Wednesday, when officials said the whole country would be closed. An election for his successor is expected at the end of June, probably 21 June.

As the Search and rescue teams work around the helicopter’s wreckage, men are seen forming a chain up the steep hillside, holding a rope; wearing anoraks and some are in hi-vis jackets. The helicopter crashed on Sunday morning in thick fog in a remote mountainous part of northern Iran, the conditions hampering a rescue effort that was unlikely to have saved lives even if the Red Crescent crews had been able to reach the victims more quickly.

The charred bodies were only revealed by a Turkish government surveillance drone after the fog lifted and the sun rose on Monday morning. State media reported that the aircraft had “hit the mountain and disintegrated” on impact, leaving “no signs of life”.

The crash happened as Raisi and his entourage were returning from the province, where he had been attending the opening of the Giz Galasi hydroelectric complex, a joint project of Iran and Azerbaijan on the Aras border river.

The crash killed all nine occupants of the helicopter, leaving a leadership vacuum that hardliners will now rush to fill before elections for a new president are held within 50 days. A provisional timetable has been set culminating in a late June election.

The Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, praised Raisi as an “outstanding politician”, saying his death was an “irreplaceable loss”. Iranian-made Shahed kamikaze drones have been critical in helping Russia to hit civilian and military installations in Ukraine.

The supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, also praised Raisi, saying that Iran had lost “a sincere and valuable servant”.

Politicians opposed to the Iranian regime, including the EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell, expressed their condolences at Raisi’s death – but even this humanitarian gesture angered Iranian opponents of the repressive regime.

Britain’s Security Minister, Tom Tugendhat, was an exception, sending out a message on X: “President Raisi’s regime has murdered thousands at home, and targeted people here in Britain and across Europe. I will not mourn him.” – With The Guardian reports

Iranian women hold posters during a mourning ceremony in Tehran, 20 May 2024

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