State media confirms the death of Iran’s president and others in a helicopter crash

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Late President Ebrahim Raisi

Iranian state media reported that President Ebrahim Raisi tragically died on Monday after his helicopter crashed in a mountainous region. While the government has yet to issue an official confirmation, rescue teams had been searching since Sunday afternoon after the helicopter, carrying Raisi, the foreign minister, and other officials, went missing.

Early Monday, relief workers located the missing helicopter, with state TV announcing Raisi’s death. “The servant of the Iranian nation, Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi, has achieved the highest level of martyrdom while serving the people,” state television declared. The Mehr news agency also reported his death, accompanied by images of Raisi and Quranic recitations.

Iran’s Vice President for Executive Affairs, Mohsen Mansouri, expressed condolences by posting a Quranic verse on social media.

Fears had been mounting for the 63-year-old leader after contact was lost with the helicopter carrying him and other officials in East Azerbaijan province. The aircraft had nine people on board, according to Tasnim news agency. Iran’s Red Crescent chief, Pirhossein Koolivand, stated that rescue teams were dispatched to the crash site after locating the helicopter. “The helicopter has been found. We are moving toward it, but the situation is dire,” he said.

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State TV confirmed that no signs of life were found among the passengers. Images of the wreckage were shared by Iranian media, and state TV first reported the crash on Sunday afternoon, citing poor weather conditions.

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Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi confirmed the helicopter’s “hard landing” and urged citizens to rely on state television for accurate information. Raisi’s convoy included three helicopters, with the other two reaching their destination safely, according to Tasnim news agency.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reassured Iranians about the stability of the nation’s leadership, stating that there would be no disruption in governance. Expressions of concern and offers of assistance have poured in from around the world, including from Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Russia, China, Turkey, and the European Union.

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Following the crash, Iran’s cabinet held an emergency meeting led by Vice President Mohammad Mokhber. Rescue teams, including Red Crescent personnel, were seen climbing hills in misty conditions, with emergency vehicles on standby.

Raisi had been in the northwestern province to inaugurate a dam project with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, who expressed deep concern over the incident on social media.

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This tragic event occurs amid high regional tensions, especially related to the Gaza conflict between Israel and Hamas. The US State Department and President Joe Biden have both been briefed on the crash.

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Ebrahim Raisi, who had been president since 2021, succeeded moderate leader Hassan Rouhani at a time when Iran’s economy was under severe strain from US sanctions over its nuclear program. Raisi’s presidency saw significant unrest, including protests following the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody in 2022.

Despite regional challenges, Raisi had overseen the restoration of diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia in March 2023. He was also a staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause, emphasizing Iran’s support for Palestinians in his last speech on Sunday.

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Hamas, considered a terrorist organization by the US and EU, expressed solidarity with Iran, its leadership, and its people in the wake of this tragic incident.

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