Iran says its president has died in a helicopter crash

Ebrahim Raisi, 63, was elected president in 2021, having had a decades-long career in the country’s judicial system under his belt

Iranian state media have confirmed that President Ebrahim Raisi was killed in a helicopter crash in the country’s northwestern province of East Azerbaijan. His entire entourage, including Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and Governor of East Azerbaijan Malek Rahmati have also perished, Press TV said.

The head of state had traveled to the border region after joining Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev on Saturday to inaugurate a dam. Raisi had pledged to visit each of Iran’s 30 provinces at least once a year, and was thus regularly moving around the country.

Reports of a “crash landing” began circulating earlier on Sunday, with Iranian state media citing Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi. According to media outlet IRNA, the weather was foggy in the area where the presidential helicopter is believed to have gone down.

According to the media, Raisi was traveling in a US-made Bell 212 helicopter. Low visibility and the impassibility of the area made search operations difficult, IRNA also wrote. Though rescue teams reportedly launched a search operation within an hour of the incident, adverse weather conditions hampered the process.

According to the media, Raisi was traveling in a US-made Bell 212 helicopter. The rescuers finally managed to locate the crash site on Monday morning with the help of Turkish surveillance drones. The wreckage was discovered in the woodland area of a mountain slope. The aircraft was heavily damaged and charred. There were no signs of survivors, the Iranian Red Crescent Society said.

With Raisi’s passing, First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber is expected to take office as interim leader.

A representative of the republic’s conservative wing, Raisi, was elected back in 2021. Before assuming Iran’s top job, he had worked his way up from Prosecutor and Deputy Prosecutor in Tehran in the 1980s and 1990s all the way to Attorney General and, later, Chief Justice.