The Telegraph 2024-05-20 10:00:35

Live Iranian president’s death was ‘unfortunate incident’, declares supreme leader

Iran’s supreme leader has described a helicopter crash that killed the country’s president as an “unfortunate incident that occurred while he was performing official duties”.

Speaking hours after Tehran confirmed the death of Ebrahim Raisi and his foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described the president as a “noble and selfless” servant to his country and also confirmed that new elections would be held in 50 days.

A helicopter carrying the two senior Iranian officials was on its way back from a dam opening ceremony in Azerbaijan when it crashed in foggy conditions in a mountainous region on the border between the two countries.

US senate majority leader Chuck Schumer has said that he has been briefed by the US intelligence committee and “at this point there is no evidence of foul play.”

Iran has a long history of aviation crashes, some of which have killed top government and military officials. But there has already been speculation about Israeli involvement on Iranian state television.

An Israeli official told Reuters that “it wasn’t us” in a statement.

Follow the latest updates below.

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Watch: Blue meteor lights up Europe’s skies

A blue meteor lit up the sky over Europe on Saturday night as a chunk of comet burned up in the atmosphere.

Videos and images on social media showed the bright blue flash of a fireball streaking across the sky in the south of Spain and Portugal, towards the Atlantic Ocean.

People as far north as Brittany, in France, and as far south as Andalusia, in Spain, reported seeing the shooting star. Early analysis has suggested that it came from an icy comet, explaining its startling light blue colour.

“It appears that this object was a small piece of a comet,” the European Space Agency wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

“We estimate that it flew over Spain and Portugal travelling at ~45 km/s [25 miles per second] before burning up over the Atlantic Ocean at an altitude of ~60 km [37 miles]. The likelihood of any meteorites being found is very low.”

Could have originated in Halley’s Comet

Scientists did not have any indication the fragment of rock was heading towards Earth until it was seen lighting up the planet’s atmosphere over Spain at around 10.45pm local time.

Prof Jose Maria Madiedo, an astronomer at the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia, led work to determine from several fireball-spotting cameras that the space rock had ended its journey over the ocean, and to ratify the assessment of the European Space Agency’s Planetary Defence Office that it was of cometary origin.

Which comet the piece came from, and how big it was, remains uncertain – but it is possible that it originated in Halley’s Comet and formed part of the Eta Aquariids meteor shower.

However, this has yet to be confirmed, and the fireball was travelling slower than an Aquariid event normally does. Nasa has said the Aquariids run from mid-April to the end of May and peak in early May.

Richard Moissl, head of the Planetary Defence Office, told The Telegraph: “It seems this was a cometary particle. The entry speed was between 44 and 45 km/s [27 and 28 miles per second].

“It overflew Spain and Portugal and then burned up at around 60km [37 miles] of altitude above the Atlantic. For sure, not a meteorite.”

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