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Dhaka Tribune

World Leaders who lost their lives in air crashes

The tragic helicopter crash that killed Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his foreign minister is part of a somber history of leaders lost in air accidents

Update : 20 May 2024, 08:30 PM

As Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his foreign minister were killed in a helicopter crash in mountainous terrain and icy weather, the world is shocked by such a tragic death.

However, this is not the first time that the world lost a prominent leader to an air crash. Here are some other leaders who died in a helicopter or plane accident.

Polish President Lech Kaczynski - 2010

Lech Kaczyński, former Mayor of Warsaw and then President of Poland, died on April 10, 2010, in a plane crash near Smolensk Air Base, Russia. The crash took 96 lives, including Kaczyński’s wife, as well as prominent Polish officials, on their way to commemorate the Katyn massacre.

Rwanda President Juvénal Habyarimana - 1994

Juvénal Habyarimana, Rwanda’s second president, was assassinated on April 6, 1994, when his Falcon 50 jet was shot down near Kigali International Airport. The attack also killed Cyprien Ntaryamira, the President of Burundi, and others. The circumstances remain disputed, with some blaming Hutu militants and others accusing Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) leader Paul Kagame.

Pakistani President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq - 1988

Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, Pakistan’s sixth president and second chief of army staff, died in a plane crash on August 17, 1988. Departing from Bahawalpur, their craft crashed en route to Islamabad. Alongside Zia, 29 others, including top military officials and the US ambassador, died. Conspiracy theories suggest Soviet or internal sabotage involvement, though an official inquiry pointed to criminal sabotage.

Lebanese Prime Minister Rashid Karami - 1987

Rashid Karami served as a prime minister eight times and was a key figure during the Lebanese Civil War. He holds the record for the most democratically elected prime minister. Karami was assassinated on June 1, 1987, when a bomb planted in his helicopter exploded shortly after takeoff from Tripoli to Beirut. Out of all the passengers, he was the only to be killed.

Indian Politician Sanjay Gandhi - 1980

Sanjay Gandhi, son of Indira Gandhi, was supposed to succeed his mother before his untimely death in a plane crash on June 23, 1980. The crash occurred during an aerobatic maneuver, killing Gandhi and Captain Subhash Saxena. His brother Rajiv assumed political leadership after their mother’s assassination.

UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold - 1961

Dag Hammarskjold, the second UN Secretary-General, died in a plane crash on September 18, 1961, on the way to negotiate a cease-fire in the Congo. He is the youngest Secretary-General to this day. The crash near Zambia, killed all 16 aboard, sparking a succession crisis in the UN Security Council.

Filipino President Ramon Magsaysay - 1957

Ramon Magsaysay, the seventh President of the Philippines, rose from humble background to become the youngest elected president in 1953. His presidency focused on governance, anti-corruption measures, and improving the lives of ordinary Filipinos. Tragically, he died in a plane crash on March 17, 1957, while returning from Cebu City, marking the premature end of his leadership.

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