Before the Iranian Ebrahim Raïssi, the previous heads of state involved in an air crash – Libération

Before the Iranian Ebrahim Raïssi, the previous heads of state involved in an air crash – Libération
Before the Iranian Ebrahim Raïssi, the previous heads of state involved in an air crash – Libération

The fate of the Iranian president still remains unknown this Sunday, May 19, after the accident of his presidential helicopter. Examples of heads of state killed in the accident, intentional or not, of their aircraft are not rare.

Intense searches are underway this Sunday evening, May 19, in the northwest of Iran, to find President Ebrahim Raïssi who was the victim of a “accident” helicopter, according to authorities. According to an Iranian official, the life of the head of state is “in danger”. “We still hope, but the information coming to us from the crash site is very worrying.” All the resources of the army were mobilized to locate the site of what, as the hours passed, increasingly suggested a crash. Accident or not, Release looks back at the famous air crashes that cost the lives of heads of state or government.

Poland, ultra-conservative president Lech Kaczynski

On April 10, 2010, Polish President Lech Kaczynski, elected for five years, died at the age of 60 in a plane crash in Smolensk, Russia. This conservative jurist, deeply Catholic and committed to the anti-communist opposition, was the twin brother of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, with whom he governed Poland from July 2006 to November 2007, the first as president, the second as Prime Minister. The crash, which occurred during the landing phase and in bad weather conditions, was due to “errors” committed on the Russian and Polish side, according to the results of the Polish commission of inquiry in 2011.

Macedonia, pro-European president Boris Trajkovski

On March 1, 2004, Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski died, with several close collaborators, in a plane crash in southern Bosnia, in a particularly rugged region, difficult to access because it was infested with mines since the war that devastated the country from 1992 to 1995. President of current North Macedonia for five years, Boris Trajkovski owned “a profoundly atypical personality in his country as in all the Balkans”, then wrote Release. This 47-year-old man of dialogue played an essential role in the stabilization of his country. He died just before his country submitted its application to join the European Union. Ten years later, an international investigation concluded that there were several pilot errors.

Rwanda, President Juvénal Habyarimana and the outbreak of the Tutsi genocide

On April 6, 1994, two missiles launched in the night from Kigali, the Rwandan capital, shot down Juvénal Habyarimana’s presidential plane and signaled the start of the last genocide of the 20th century. This attack, which has never been claimed, was the trigger for the genocide of hundreds of thousands of Tutsi across the country. Until 2022, the role of France was singled out in the death of the president, but the French Court of Cassation concluded that the case should be dismissed.

Mozambique, the “father” of independence Samora Michel

On October 19, 1986, the first president of independent Mozambique, Samora Machel, was killed with 24 others in the accident of his Tupolev 134 in northeast South Africa, while returning from a summit in Zambia. The South African commission of inquiry insisted on the failures of the Soviet crew, which allegedly caused an accident. A document from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, obtained by RFI, indicates that the president was aware of “device obsolescence” Soviet air forces. But the thesis of an attack committed by South Africa is brandished, in particular, by Armando Guebuza, president of Mozambique from 2005 to 2015. According to several African leaders, Samora Michel would be a direct or collateral victim of apartheid.

Panama, General Omar Torrijos, “strong man” of the country

On July 31, 1981, General Omar Torrijos, commander in chief of the Panama National Guard and “strong man” of the country since 1968, died in a plane crash along with six other passengers. His plane crashed in the middle of the jungle about a hundred kilometers west of the country’s capital. The cause of the accident remains mysterious, between bad weather and accusations that it was the hand of Reagan’s United States. A theory fueled by the fact that the crash occurred two months after a previous accident fatal to a Latin American leader.

Ecuador, the first democratically elected president Jaime Roldós Aguilera

Two months earlier, in fact, on May 24, 1981, Ecuadorian President Jaime Roldós Aguilera was killed during his mandate in a plane crash near the Peruvian border, with eight others passing through, including his wife and his minister of Defense. In 2015, Ecuadorian justice announced the opening of an investigation into this accident, officially caused by a technical failure. As the first democratically elected president, Jaime Roldós Aguilera opposed the Condor Plan, the name given to the alliance of South American countries then in dictatorship (Paraguay, Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, Argentina). This alliance is held responsible for thousands of deaths and disappearances, and several observers believe that it could be at the origin of the death of the president, while others accuse the United States.

Portugal, Prime Minister Francisco Sa Carneiro

On December 4, 1980, Portuguese Prime Minister Francisco Sa Carneiro was killed in the crash of his plane in Camarate, near Lisbon, alongside Defense Minister Adelino Amaro de Costa. In December 2004, a parliamentary commission of inquiry concluded that there had been an attack. According to an article in Guardian published in 1999, a far-right terrorist group, known for a series of bomb attacks against Portuguese politicians, is believed to be behind this attack. A report then revealed that forensic experts had found metal objects embedded in the bones of the victims, due to an explosion. No less than 10 parliamentary commissions of inquiry have followed one another to try to establish the truth. The final report of the last parliamentary commission of inquiry, formed in 2013, concludes bluntly: “The plane crash in Camarate, on the night of December 4, was due to an attack.»

Central African Republic, the president of the government Barthélemy Boganda

On March 29, 1959, the first president of the government of the Central African Republic, Barthélemy Boganda, died in the mid-flight explosion of a French airliner in the southwest of the country. At the age of 48, the politician died in the middle of the electoral campaign. 63 years after the accident, the circumstances of this fatal explosion for the man who is considered the “father of independence” in the Central African Republic have never been clarified.

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