Iranians pay final respects to president killed in helicopter crash

TEHRAN – Thousands of Iranians walked somberly through the streets on May 21 to mourn President Ebrahim Raisi and seven members of his entourage who died in a helicopter crash.

Waving Iranian flags and portraits of the late president, mourners set out from a central square in the northwestern city of Tabriz, where Raisi was headed when his helicopter crashed May 19 on a fog-covered mountain slope in the northwest. .

They were walking behind a truck carrying the coffins of Mr. Raisi and his seven assistants.

“We, the members of the government, who had the honor of serving this dear president, the working president, promise our dear people and leader to follow the path of these martyrs,” Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi said in a speech .

The helicopter lost communication while returning to Tabriz after Raisi attended the inauguration of a joint dam project on the Aras River, which forms part of the border with Azerbaijan, in a ceremony with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Ilham Aliyev.

A massive search and rescue operation began on the afternoon of May 19, when two other helicopters in Raisi’s convoy lost contact with his plane amid harsh weather conditions in the mountainous region.

State television broke the news of his death early on May 20, saying that “the servant of the Iranian nation, Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi, has reached the highest level of martyrdom,” showing photographs of him as a voice recited the Koran.

Along with the Iranian president, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hossein Amirabdollahian, members of the provincial authorities of East Azerbaijan and his security team were assassinated.

Iran’s military chief of staff, Mohammad Bagheri, on May 20 ordered an investigation into the cause of the accident.

Following confirmation of Raisi’s death, international condolences poured in as people in cities across the Islamic republic gathered to mourn the late president and his companions.

Tens of thousands of mourners holding portraits of Raisi gathered in the central Valiasr Square in the capital, Tehran, on May 20.

national mourning

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the highest authority in the country, declared five days of national mourning and assigned Vice President Mohammad Mokhber, 68, to take interim duties ahead of the election.

State media later announced that the presidential election would be held on June 28.

Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Ali Bagheri, who served as Amirabdollahian’s deputy, was tapped to serve as acting foreign minister.

After leaving Tabriz, Raisi’s body will arrive at the Shiite clerical center of Qom in Iran later on May 21 before being transferred to Tehran.