Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has died in helicopter crash

Tehran, Iran - Iranian state media said President Ebrahim Raisi died on Monday after his helicopter crashed in a mountainous region of the country.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has died in a helicopter crash, according to state media.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has died in a helicopter crash, according to state media.  © Iran's Presidency/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via REUTERS

The government has not yet issued a confirmation of the leader's death.

Rescue teams had been scouring the area since Sunday afternoon after a helicopter carrying Raisi, the foreign minister, and other officials had gone missing.

Early Monday, relief workers located the missing helicopter, with state TV saying the president had died.

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"The servant of Iranian nation, Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi has achieved the highest level of martyrdom whilst serving the people," state television said Monday, with Mehr news agency also saying he was dead.

State television broadcast photos of Raisi, with the voice of a man reciting the Koran playing in the background.

Iran's vice president for executive affairs Mohsen Mansouri posted on X a Koranic verse used to express condolences.

Growing fears for President Ebrahim Raisi

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi's helicopter made a "hard landing" in bad weather, the interior minister said, sparking recovery efforts.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi's helicopter made a "hard landing" in bad weather, the interior minister said, sparking recovery efforts.  © Iran's Presidency/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via REUTERS

Fears had been growing for the 63-year-old president after contact was lost with the helicopter carrying him as well as Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and others in East Azerbaijan province on Sunday.

A total of nine people were on board the aircraft, according to Tasnim news agency.

Iran's Red Crescent chief Pirhossein Koolivand said rescue teams headed towards the site of the crash after locating the aircraft.

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"The helicopter has been found. Now, we are moving toward the helicopter," said Koolivand. "We are seeing the helicopter. The situation is not good."

"Upon finding the helicopter, there was no sign of the helicopter passengers being alive as of yet," state TV reported about 15 hours after the aircraft went missing.

Iranian media, including Fars news agency, shared drone images of what appeared to be the wreckage of the helicopter.

State TV first reported Sunday afternoon that "an accident happened to the helicopter carrying the president" in the Jolfa region of East Azerbaijan province.

Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi said the helicopter "made a hard landing" in bad weather.

He urged people to get their information "only from state television," and not listen to foreign media channels Iran deems hostile.

Raisi's convoy had included three helicopters, and the other two had "reached their destination safely," said the Tasnim news agency.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged Iranians to "not worry" about the leadership of the Islamic republic, saying "there will be no disruption in the country's work."

Expressions of concern and offers of help came from abroad, including Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Russia, China, and Turkey, as well as from the European Union, which activated its rapid response mapping service to aid in the search effort.

Massive search effort for President Raisi's helicopter

President Ebrahim Raisi speaks during the 43rd anniversary of the US expulsion from Iran, on November 4, 2022.
President Ebrahim Raisi speaks during the 43rd anniversary of the US expulsion from Iran, on November 4, 2022.  © Iran's Presidency/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via REUTERS

Iran's cabinet held an emergency meeting led by Vice President Mohammad Mokhber after the incident, the IRNA news agency reported.

Army, Revolutionary Guard, and police officers were involved in the search, authorities said, as TV stations showed pictures of Red Crescent teams walking up a hill in the mist, while rows of emergency response vehicles waited.

Raisi had visited the northwestern province to inaugurate a dam project together with Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev, on their common border.

Aliyev said in a post on X that "we were profoundly troubled by the news of a helicopter carrying the top delegation crash-landing in Iran."

Foreign countries were closely following the search at a time of high regional tensions over Israel's war on Gaza since October 7 that has drawn in other armed groups in the Middle East.

A US State Department spokesperson said: "We are closely following reports of a possible hard landing of a helicopter in Iran carrying the Iranian president and foreign minister," adding that "we have no further comment at this time."

US President Joe Biden has been briefed on the crash, an American official said on condition of anonymity.

President Raisi expresses support for besieged Palestinians

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has been a vocal supporter of Palestinians in their efforts to end the ongoing Israeli occupation.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has been a vocal supporter of Palestinians in their efforts to end the ongoing Israeli occupation.  © REUTERS

Raisi has been president since 2021 when he succeeded the moderate Hassan Rouhani, at a time when the economy was battered by US sanctions over Iran's contested nuclear program.

Iran saw a wave of protests triggered by the death in custody of Iranian-Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in September 2022 after her arrest for allegedly flouting dress rules for women.

In March 2023, regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia signed a surprise deal that restored diplomatic relations.

The Gaza siege sent regional tensions soaring and a series of escalations – including an Israeli strike on an Iranian consular annex in Syria – led to Tehran launching hundreds of missiles and rockets directly at Israel in April this year.

In a speech following Sunday's dam inauguration, Raisi emphasized Iran's support for Palestinians, a centerpiece of its foreign policy since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

"We believe that Palestine is the first issue of the Muslim world, and we are convinced that the people of Iran and Azerbaijan always support the people of Palestine and Gaza and hate the Zionist regime," said Raisi.

Hamas said that "in this painful incident, we express our full solidarity with the Islamic Republic of Iran, its leadership, government and people."

Cover photo: Iran's Presidency/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via REUTERS

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