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World leaders who died in air crashes

Published : Monday, 20 May, 2024 at 4:11 PM  Count : 706

President Raisi and Foreign Minister Amirabdollahian died in air crash on May 19, 2024. Photo: Reuters

President Raisi and Foreign Minister Amirabdollahian died in air crash on May 19, 2024. Photo: Reuters


The deaths of world leaders in air crashes are pivotal moments in history shaking up politics and leaving nations in uncertainty. These incidents not only rob countries of influential figures but also create power vacuums and prompt questions about the future. As investigations unfold speculation runs rampant and the events often become shrouded in conspiracy theories. 

Here is a list of 10 world leaders who died in air crashes:

Ebrahim Raisi, Iran (1960-2024)

On May 19, 2024, President Raisi and Foreign Minister Amirabdollahian (1964-2024) along with others who were on board the helicopter that crashed are dead, multiple Iranian news agencies confirmed. The cause behind the crash is not clear yet, but due the ongoing Israeli invasion of Gaza and an escalation of tensions between Israel and Iran just weeks ago, the world has shifted its focus to the Middle East once again, hoping that this is not a prelude to more death and bloodshed.

General Zia-ul-Haq, Pakistan (1924-1988)
A military leader who went on to become the President of Pakistan, Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq died in a plane crash near Bahawalpur, Pakistan on August 17, 1988, after observing an arms display in the Punjab province. Alongside him, other military leaders and the US ambassador to Pakistan also perished.

The cause of the crash remains controversial with speculation about mechanical failure, sabotage and conspiracy theories. In Pakistan, there were accusations that the Soviet Union was behind the crash, given Zia-ul-Haq's support for the Afghan mujahideen in the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Lech Kaczynski, Poland (1949-2010)

On April 10, 2010, Lech Kaczyńskiw, the President of Poland, died in a plane crash near Smolensk, Russia along with many other high-ranking Polish officials. The crash occurred as the delegation was en route to commemorate the Katyn massacre.

A total of 96 people were killed, and an investigation committee headed by then Russian PM Vladimir Putin was formed. Kaczyński, during his five-year presidency, was vocal against the Russian invasion of Georgia and provided support to the former Soviet nation during the war. 

Some claimed that the Russian government was behind his killing, and a 2016 Polish government investigation revealed that the body parts of many of the victims were mismatched in their coffins during the recovery of bodies and subsequent burial.

Ramon Magsaysay, Philippines (1907-1957)

The seventh president of the Philippines died in a plane crash on Mount Manunggal in Cebu on March 17, 1957. President Magsaysay had spoken at multiple universities and been conferred an honorary doctorate degree on March 16. On his way back to Manila the next day, however, his plane crashed into Mount Manunggal in Cebu, Philippines. All but one passenger were killed, including the president.

Magsaysay was known for his strong anti-communist policies and his dedication to democracy.

Juvenal Habyarimana, Rwanda (1937-1994)

On April 6, 1994, the president of Rwanda and Cyprien Ntaryamira (1955-1994), the president of Burundi, both died when their plane was shot down as it was about to land in Kigali, Rwanda. This incident is often cited as the trigger for the Rwandan genocide. Current Rwandan president Paul Kagame has been accused by various parties for the assassination, but Kagame maintains that the killing was ordered by Hutu leaders to aggravate the militias who carried out the genocide of the Tutsi minority group following Habyarimana's assassination.

Cyprien Ntaryamira became president in 1973, remaining in power for over two decades, during which time the Hutu majority of Rwanda was favoured massively by the Habyarimana (himself a Hutu) government. Once the civil war started, Habyarimana took the help of external powers to maintain control, a decision that led to terrible consequences for Rwandan civilians.

Samora Machel, Mozambique (1933-1986)

The president of Mozambique died in a plane crash near the Mozambican-South African border. The cause of the crash is disputed with some alleging South African involvement.

Bingu wa Mutharika, Malawi (1934-2012)

The president of Malawi died of a heart attack following a cardiac arrest on his way to a hospital in Lilongwe, Malawi after his presidential convoy was diverted due to his helicopter encountering bad weather.

Hafez al-Assa, Syria (1930-2000)

The president of Syria died in a plane crash near Damascus. The crash occurred under mysterious circumstances with some suggesting foul play, although the official cause was attributed to a heart attack suffered by Assad while piloting the aircraft.

Leon M’ba, Gabon (1902–1967)

The first president of Gabon died in a plane crash off the coast of Gabon.

Ibrahim Nasir, Maldives (1926-2008)

The second president of the Maldives died in a helicopter crash while on a private visit to an uninhabited island in the Maldives.


News agencies/ NY

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