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Iran army finds no sign of foul play in Raisi helicopter crash

TEHRAN: A preliminary report on the helicopter crash that killed Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Sunday has found no evidence of criminal activity, state media say.

A preliminary report on the crash by the general staff of the armed forces said the craft had “caught fire after hitting an elevated area”, finding no traces of “bullet holes” on the helicopter wreckage, according to the official IRNA news agency late on Thursday.

The report also stated that Raisi’s helicopter had been flying on a “pre-planned route and did not leave the designated flight path” before the crash on Sunday.

It is added that , “No suspicious content was observed during the communications between the watch tower and the flight crew,

More details would be released as the investigation advances, the report said.

President Ebrahim Raisi was buried in his home city of Mashhad on Thursday, four days after the helicopter went down while returning from a dam inauguration on the border with Azerbaijan.

The aircraft – a decades-old, US-made Bell 212 – hit a mountainside as it flew toward the north-western city of Tabriz in heavy rain.

The aircraft was found by drones on Monday but the “complexity of the area, fog and low temperatures” hindered the work of rescue teams, according to the report.

The final communication between the president’s craft and two accompanying helicopters was recorded about a minute and a half before the crash, according to a statement from the general staff of the armed forces, broadcast on state television on Thursday night.

The 63-year-old president was travelling with Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian, three other officials and the helicopter’s three crew. There were no survivors.

Iran’s top prosecutor this week warned against rumour-mongering on social media amid speculation that the helicopter may have been downed, state media reported.