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Massive crowd attends Raisi’s funeral in Tehran

By AFP

May 22, 2024 08:57 AM


Funeral for Iran president Raisi to be held in Tehran today

Mourners attend the funeral procession of Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi at the Shrine of Masoomeh in Qom.–AFP

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Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei led prayers for late president Ebrahim Raisi on Wednesday as huge crowds thronged the capital Tehran for his funeral procession.

Flanked by top officials, Khamenei said prayers over the coffins of the eight dead from Sunday's helicopter crash, who also included foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

A sea of mourners filled the open space around Tehran university, where the prayers were held before the funeral procession moved on to Enghelab and Azadi squares.

State television said that Raisi, who had been widely seen as Khamenei's most likely successor as supreme leader, had received a "millionfold farewell" from the people of Tehran.

"We have lost a prominent personality. He was a very good brother. He was an efficient, competent, sincere, and serious official," Khamenei todl visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani.

The leader of Palestinian militant group Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, joined the procession, as did the deputy leader of Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, Naim Qassem.

"I say once again... we are sure that the Islamic Republic of Iran will continue its support for the Palestinian people," Haniyeh told the crowd to chants of "Death to Israel".

- 'Martyr of service' -

In the capital, huge banners have gone up hailing the late president as "the martyr of service", while others bade "farewell to the servant of the disadvantaged".

Tehran residents received phone messages urging them to join the funeral procession.

"I was sad, I came to calm my heart and calm the heart of the supreme leader," said one mourner who gave her name only as Maryam and said she had travelled from Varamin, south of Tehran, to pay her last respects.

Raisi's helicopter crashed into a fog-shrouded mountainside in northwestern Iran on Sunday as he headed back to the city of Tabriz after attending a ceremony on the border with Azerbaijan.

A huge search and rescue operation was launched, involving help from the European Union, Russia and Turkey. State television announced Raisi's death early on Monday.

The Iranian military said Wednesday that domestically produced drones had played the key role in locating the crash site.

- Burial in Mashhad -

Funeral ceremonies for Raisi and his entourage began on Tuesday with processions through Tabriz and the Shiite clerical centre of Qom drawing tens of thousands of black-clad mourners.

From Tehran, the bodies will be taken to Iran's second city of Mashhad, Raisi's hometown in the northeast, where he will be buried on Thursday evening after funeral rites at the Imam Reza shrine.

Khamenei, who wields ultimate authority in Iran, has declared five days of national mourning and assigned vice president Mohammad Mokhber, 68, as caretaker president until a 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.

The country's armed forces chief Mohammad Bagheri has ordered an investigation into the cause of the helicopter crash.

Raisi was elected president in 2021, succeeding the moderate Hassan Rouhani at a time when the economy was battered by US sanctions imposed over Iran's nuclear activities.

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

After his death, Russia and China sent their condolences, as did NATO, while the UN Security Council observed a minute's silence.

Messages of condolence also flooded in from Iran's allies around the region, including the Syrian government as well as Hamas and Hezbollah.

Iran used own drones to locate Raisi's helicopter

The Iranian military said Wednesday that it had used domestically produced drones to locate the helicopter of president Ebrahim Raisi after it crashed in the northwestern mountains.

Raisi's helicopter came down on a fog-shrouded mountainside on Sunday as it returned to the city of Tabriz from a ceremony on the border with Azerbaijan.

A huge search and rescue operation was launched, involving help from the European Union, Russia and Turkey before the crash site was located early on Monday.

The Iranian military said that a drone dispatched by Turkey had failed to locate the crash site "despite having night-vison equipment"

"This drone failed to accurately announce the location of the helicopter crash and finally returned to Turkey," the military said in a statement carried by the official IRNA news agency

"Finally, in the early hours of Monday morning, the exact spot of the helicopter crash was discovered by the ground rescue forces and Iranian drones of the armed forces."

Armed forces chief Mohammad Bagheri has ordered an investigation into the cause of the crash, which also killed seven members of Raisi's entourage, including Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.


AFP


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