Iranians Mourn President Killed in Helicopter Crash

A picture of the late Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is seen on his coffin during a funeral ceremony held in Tabriz, East Azerbaijan Province, Iran, May 21, 2024. Stringer/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters
A picture of the late Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is seen on his coffin during a funeral ceremony held in Tabriz, East Azerbaijan Province, Iran, May 21, 2024. Stringer/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters
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Iranians Mourn President Killed in Helicopter Crash

A picture of the late Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is seen on his coffin during a funeral ceremony held in Tabriz, East Azerbaijan Province, Iran, May 21, 2024. Stringer/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters
A picture of the late Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is seen on his coffin during a funeral ceremony held in Tabriz, East Azerbaijan Province, Iran, May 21, 2024. Stringer/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters

Tens of thousands mourned Iran's president Ebrahim Raisi on Tuesday after his death in a helicopter crash, amid political uncertainty ahead of an election for his successor next month.  

Raisi and seven members of his entourage including Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian were killed when their aircraft came down on a fog-shrouded mountainside in northern Iran on Sunday.  

Waving Iranian flags and portraits of the late president, mourners marched in the northwestern city of Tabriz, where Raisi's helicopter had been headed when it crashed.

Black-clad mourners beat their chests as they walked behind a lorry carrying the coffins of Raisi and those who died with him.

"We, the members of the government, who had the honor to serve this beloved president, the hardworking president, pledge to our dear people and leader to follow the path of these martyrs," Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi said in a speech.

From Tabriz, Raisi's body was taken to the Shiite clerical center of Qom later Tuesday before being moved to Tehran, where huge banners hailing him as "the martyr of service" have appeared around the city.  

In Qom, the procession moved toward the city's main shrine of Massoumeh. The official IRNA news agency said the funerals in Iran were attended by "hundreds of thousands" of people.  

Contact with Raisi's helicopter was lost in bad weather on the return flight to Tabriz after the inauguration of a joint dam project on Iran's border with Azerbaijan, in a ceremony with his Azeri counterpart Ilham Aliyev.  

A huge search and rescue operation was launched, and state television announced his death early on Monday.  

- National mourning -  

Over pictures of Raisi and as a voice recited Quranic verses, the broadcaster said that "the servant of the Iranian nation, Ebrahim Raisi, has achieved the highest level of martyrdom".

As well as the president and foreign minister, provincial officials, members of Raisi's security team and the helicopter crew all died in the crash.  

Armed forces chief of staff Mohammad Bagheri ordered an investigation into the crash as Iranians nationwide mourned Raisi and his entourage.  

Tens of thousands of people gathered in the capital's Valiasr Square on Monday.  

Iran's highest security body, the Supreme National Security Council, said the "vast presence" of mourners at the funeral "guaranteed the stability and national security of the Islamic republic".  

On Tuesday, the Assembly of Experts, a key clerical body in charge of selecting or dismissing Iran's supreme leader, held its first session since being elected in March, with the seat reserved for Raisi carrying his portrait.  

Raisi, who was widely expected to succeed current supreme leader Ali Khamenei, had been a member of the body since 2006.

Khamenei wields ultimate authority in Iran, and has declared five days of national mourning.  

He has assigned vice president Mohammad Mokhber, 68, as caretaker president until the June 28 election for Raisi's successor.  

Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri, who was Amir-Abdollahian's deputy, has been named acting foreign minister.  

- Home town funeral -  

A ceremony for the crash victims will be held in Tehran at 8:00 pm (1630 GMT) Tuesday ahead of processions in the capital on Wednesday morning before Khamenei leads prayers at a farewell ceremony.

Countries including Türkiye and Russia have announced they will send representatives to the funeral.  

Raisi's body will be flown from Tehran to his home city of Mashhad in the northeast, where he will be buried on Thursday evening after funeral rites at the Imam Reza shrine.  

Raisi, 63, was elected president in 2021. The ultra-conservative's time in office saw mass protests, a deepening economic crisis and unprecedented armed exchanges with arch-enemy Israel.  

Raisi succeeded the moderate Hassan Rouhani at a time when the economy was battered by US sanctions imposed over Iran's nuclear activities.  

Messages of condolence flooded in from Iran's allies around the region, including Syria, Palestinian armed group Hamas and Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, both of which are backed by Tehran.  

It was an unprecedented Hamas attack on Israel that sparked the devastating war in the Gaza Strip, now in its eighth month, and soaring tensions between Israel and the "resistance axis" led by Iran.  

Israel's presumed killing of seven Revolutionary Guards in a drone strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus on April 1 triggered Iran's first ever direct attack on Israel, involving hundreds of missiles and drones.

In a speech just hours before his death, Raisi underlined Iran's support for the Palestinians, a centerpiece of its foreign policy since the 1979 revolution.  

Palestinian flags have flown alongside Iranian flags at ceremonies held for the late president.  

Tribute was also paid to Raisi by a China-led regional bloc on Tuesday.  

Envoys from Russia, China, India and Pakistan were among those who stood for a minute's silence at a Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Astana, Kazakhstan.

Across Iran, its rural population often more closely embraces the government. However, Tehran has long held a far different view of Raisi and his government's policies as mass protests have roiled the capital for years.  

The most recent involved the 2022 death of Mahsa Amini, a woman detained over her allegedly loose headscarf. The monthslong security crackdown that followed the demonstrations killed more than 500 people and saw over 22,000 detained.  

In March, a United Nations investigative panel found that Iran was responsible for the "physical violence" that led to Amini’s death.

On Sunday night, as news of the helicopter crash circulated, some offered anti-government chants in the night. Fireworks could be seen in some parts of the capital, though Sunday also marked a remembrance for Imam Reza, which can see them set off as well. Critical messages and dark jokes over the crash also circulated online.  

Iran's top prosecutor has already issued an order demanding cases be filed against those "publishing false content, lies and insults" against Raisi and others killed in the crash, according to the semiofficial ISNA news agency. 



Canada Navy Patrol Ship Arrive in Cuba on Heels of Russian Warships

The Canadian Navy patrol boat HMCS Margaret Brooke enters Havana's bay, Cuba, June 14, 2024. REUTERS/Stringer
The Canadian Navy patrol boat HMCS Margaret Brooke enters Havana's bay, Cuba, June 14, 2024. REUTERS/Stringer
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Canada Navy Patrol Ship Arrive in Cuba on Heels of Russian Warships

The Canadian Navy patrol boat HMCS Margaret Brooke enters Havana's bay, Cuba, June 14, 2024. REUTERS/Stringer
The Canadian Navy patrol boat HMCS Margaret Brooke enters Havana's bay, Cuba, June 14, 2024. REUTERS/Stringer

A Canadian navy patrol ship sailed into Havana early on Friday, just hours after the United States announced a fast-attack submarine had docked at its Guantanamo naval base in Cuba, both vessels on the heels of Russian warships that arrived on the island earlier this week.
The confluence of Russian, Canadian and US vessels in Cuba - a Communist-run island nation just 145 km (90 miles) south of Florida - was a reminder of old Cold War tensions and fraught ties between Russia and Western nations over the Ukraine war, Reuters said.
However, both the US and Cuba have said the Russian warships pose no threat to the region. Russia has also characterized the arrival of its warships in allied Cuba as routine.
The Admiral Gorshkov frigate and the nuclear-powered submarine Kazan, half submerged with its crew on deck, sailed into Havana harbor on Wednesday after conducting "high-precision missile weapons" training in the Atlantic Ocean, Russia's defense ministry said.
Canada`s Margaret Brooke patrol vessel began maneuvers early on Friday to enter Havana harbor, part of what the Canadian Joint Operations Command called "a port visit ... in recognition of the long-standing bilateral relationship between Canada and Cuba."
Hours earlier, the US Southern Command said the fast-attack submarine Helena had arrived on a routine port visit to Guantanamo Bay, a US naval base on the tip of the island around 850 km (530 miles) southeast of Havana.
"The vessel's location and transit were previously planned," Southern Command said on X.
Cuba`s foreign ministry said it had been informed of the arrival of the US submarine but was not happy about it.
"Naval visits to a country are usually the result of an invitation, and this was not the case," said Vice Foreign Minister Carlos Fernández de Cossío.
"Obviously we do not like the presence in our territory (of a submarine) belonging to a power that maintains an official and practical policy that is hostile against Cuba."
A Canadian diplomat characterized the Margaret Brooke`s arrival as "routine and part of long-standing cooperation between our two countries", adding it was "unrelated to the presence of the Russian ships."
Russia and Cuba were close allies under the former Soviet Union, and tensions with Washington over communism in its "backyard" peaked with the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Moscow has maintained ties with Havana.
When asked what message Moscow was sending, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday the West never appeared to take notice when Russia sent signals through diplomatic channels.
"As soon as it comes to exercises or sea voyages, we immediately hear questions and a desire to know what these messages are about," Zakharova said. "Why do only signals related only to our army and navy reach the West?"
The Russian warships are expected to remain in Havana harbor until Monday.