Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, FM and others killed in helicopter crash - GulfToday

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, FM and others killed in helicopter crash


This combination of pictures shows handout photos released by the Iranian presidency of the empty seats of Ebrahim Raisi (L) and Hossein Amir-Abdollahian during a cabinet meeting held in Tehran on Monday. AFP

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was killed after his helicopter crashed in poor weather in mountains near the Azerbaijan border, officials and state media said on Monday.

The charred wreckage of the helicopter which crashed on Sunday carrying Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and six other passengers and crew was found early on Monday after an overnight search in blizzard conditions.

Supreme Leader Khamenei, who holds ultimate power with a final say on foreign policy and Iran's nuclear programme, said First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber, would take over as interim president, the official IRNA news agency reported.

"I announce five days of public mourning and offer my condolences to the dear people of Iran," Khamenei said in a statement. Mokhber, like Raisi, is seen as close to Khamenei.


Under the Islamic Republic's constitution, a new presidential election must be held within 50 days. Any candidate must first be vetted by the Guardian Council.


Footage from Iranian state television showed wreckage scattered on a foggy hillside, while separate images from IRNA showed Red Crescent workers carrying a covered body on a stretcher. All those aboard the helicopter were killed, a senior Iranian official had earlier told Reuters.


Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani was appointed as acting foreign minister following the death of Amirabdollahian, IRNA said.

The crash comes at a time of growing dissent within Iran over an array of political, social and economic crises. Iran's clerical rulers face international pressure over Tehran's disputed nuclear programme and its deepening military ties with Russia during the war in Ukraine.

State media reported that images from the site showed the US-made Bell 212 helicopter slammed into a mountain peak, although there was no official word on the cause of the crash. The dead also included the governor of East Azerbaijan Province and a senior imam from Tabriz city.Raisi-Copter-crash-day

Decades of sanctions have made it hard for Iran to obtain parts or upgrade its aircraft. Russia offered to assist Iran with investigating the crash.

The helicopter went down in Varzeqan region north of Tabriz, state news agency IRNA reported, as Raisi returned from an official visit to the border with Azerbaijan in Iran's northwest.


Raisi, 63, was elected president in 2021, and since taking office has ordered a tightening of morality laws, overseen a bloody crackdown on anti-government protests and pushed hard in nuclear talks with world powers.

Messages of condolences poured in from Iran's regional neighbours and allies, including the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Jordan, Iraq and Pakistan.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called Raisi "a true friend of Russia." The Kremlin said he had spoken to Mokhber by phone and both stressed "mutual intention to further strengthen Russian-Iranian interaction." Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was "deeply shocked and saddened."

There was less reaction from Western capitals, though the European Union and Japan expressed condolences. Hamas issued a statement expressing sympathy to the Iranian people for "this immense loss."

Lebanon's Hizbollah group and the Houthi rebels in Yemen also issued statements praising Raisi and mourning his death.


Meanwhile, the exiled opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, described his death in a statement as a "monumental and irreparable strategic blow" to the Islamic Republic.


Rescue teams fought rain, blizzards and difficult terrain through the night to reach the wreckage in the early hours of Monday.

Earlier, the national broadcaster had stopped all regular programming to show prayers being held for Raisi across the country.

Video showed a rescue team, wearing bright jackets and head torches, huddled around a GPS device as they searched a pitch-black mountainside on foot.

Raisi had been at the Azerbaijani border on Sunday to inaugurate the Qiz-Qalasi Dam, a joint project. Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev, who said he had bid a "friendly farewell" to Raisi earlier in the day, had offered assistance in the rescue.



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