Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi dies in helicopter crash


Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has been confirmed dead after rescuers discovered the wreckage of a helicopter carrying him and other officials in the mountainous northwest region of Iran. Raisi was 63 years old.


The crash also claimed the lives of Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, Eastern Azerbaijan province Governor Malek Rahmati, Tabriz’s Friday prayer Imam Mohammad Ali Alehashem, the pilot, copilot, crew chief, head of security, and another bodyguard, according to Iranian media. All nine individuals on board were declared dead.


A senior Iranian official confirmed to Reuters that “President Raisi, the foreign minister, and all the passengers in the helicopter were killed in the crash.”


State television did not provide an immediate cause for the crash in East Azerbaijan province.


Footage released by IRNA early Monday depicted the crash site located across a steep valley in a green mountain range. Soldiers speaking in the local Azeri language could be heard saying, “There it is, we found it.” An Iranian official stated that search teams found “no sign of life” at the wreckage site.


Mohammad Mokhber, 68, Iran’s first vice president, is set to become the interim president following Raisi’s death. State media reported that Mokhber had already begun receiving calls from officials and foreign governments in Raisi’s absence.


The Iranian government reportedly held an urgent meeting on Monday, with Raisi’s chair left vacant and draped in a black sash in his memory.


Rescue teams battled blizzards and difficult terrain throughout the night to reach the crash site in East Azerbaijan province early Monday.


On Monday morning, Turkish authorities released drone footage showing what appeared to be a fire in the wilderness, which they suspected to be the wreckage of the helicopter. The coordinates from the footage placed the fire about 12 miles south of the Azerbaijan-Iranian border on a steep mountain.


State media reported that Russia had sent a 50-man specialist mountain rescue unit to assist in the search. This was confirmed by the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations in a Telegram post.


Approximately 73 teams, along with detector dogs, were involved in the search and rescue operation, according to Iran’s Red Crescent.

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