Iran’s Hardline President Has Been Killed After His Helicopter Crashed In The Mountains

Ebrahim Raisi was viewed as a close associate and possible successor of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Iran’s Hardline President Has Been Killed After His Helicopter Crashed In The Mountains

Iran’s hardline president Ebrahim Raisi and his foreign minister have been killed in a helicopter crash while crossing the mountainous terrain near the Azerbaijan border.

iran president Ebrahim Raisi
Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi officially welcomed Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid at Saadabad Cultural & Historical Complex in Tehran, Iran. (Photo by Sakineh Salimi/Borna News/Aksonline ATPImages/Getty Images)

Raisi was viewed as a close associate and possible successor of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

iran president helicopter crash search rescue wreckage
Iranian rescue teams recover the bodies from the crash site of the Iranian presidential helicopter in the dense forest of Dizmar between the cities of Varzaqan and Jolfa in East Azerbaijan province, Iran. (Photo by Rahim / Middle East Images / Middle East Images via AFP)

Since winning the presidency in 2021, Raisi has tightened “morality” laws, brutally suppressed anti-government demonstrations and took a firm stance on nuclear discussions with international powers.

Known for his hardline views, he became widely unpopular over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini and the authorities' crackdown on the subsequent protests.

iran mourning president Ebrahim Raisi killed helicopter crash
People holding photos gathering at Valiasr Square mourn the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hussein Amir Abdollahian and other Iranian officials in a helicopter crash on Sunday in Iran. (Photo by Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu via Getty Images)

On Sunday, May 19, the helicopter carrying the 63-year-old president crashed during his flight returning to Tabriz after inaugurating the Qiz Qalasi Dam with Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev on their shared border.

The chopper, which was carrying Raisi, foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and six other officials, lost communication just 30 minutes after takeoff.

As soon as the news of the crash surfaced, authorities initiated extensive search efforts, with over 60 rescue teams, including the army, Revolutionary Guard and police units, scouring the site in blizzard conditions for 18 hours.

iran president helicopter crash wreckage Ebrahim Raisi
A picture shows wreckage at the crash site of a helicopter transporting Iran's President, his Foreign Minister, and others in a fog-covered mountainous area of Varzaghan in northwestern Iran. (Photo by Azin HAGHIGHI / MOJ News Agency / AFP)

Initially, state media described the incident as an “accident,” with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a televised address, urging the public to remain calm and “not worry” about their president.

After an overnight search hampered by harsh weather conditions and heavy fog, the burnt remains of the helicopter were found early Monday morning.

Ebrahim Raisi iran president
Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi attends a military parade alongside high-ranking officials and commanders during a ceremony marking the country's annual army day in Tehran. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP)

Videos and images from the wreckage scene showed a helicopter had slammed into a mountain peak, Reuters reported, quoting state media.

The Governor of East Azerbaijan Province and a senior imam from Tabriz were also killed in the crash.

Khamenei announced five days of public mourning and offered condolences to the “dear people of Iran.”

First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber will now assume the role of interim president.

Iranian officials have not stated the cause of the crash.

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