Iran President Raisi dies in helicopter crash

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, a hardliner and potential successor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, died in a helicopter crash near the Azerbaijan border, as reported by officials and state media on Monday.

The crash also resulted in the deaths of Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and all other passengers aboard.

The helicopter went down in mountainous terrain on Sunday, and its burned wreckage was found early Monday after a challenging overnight search conducted in severe blizzard conditions. A senior Iranian official, speaking anonymously due to the sensitivity of the situation, confirmed that President Raisi, the foreign minister, and all other passengers had perished.

Vice President Mohsen Mansouri and state television later officially confirmed Raisi’s death. Images broadcasted on state TV showed the helicopter wreckage on a mountain peak, although the exact cause of the crash remains unclear. Rescue teams faced difficult conditions, including blizzards and rugged terrain, during their search for the wreckage.

Pirhossein Kolivand, head of Iran’s Red Crescent, informed state TV that no signs of life had been detected among the helicopter’s passengers upon discovering the crash site. Earlier, national broadcaster IRIB interrupted regular programming to broadcast prayers held for Raisi across the country.

Footage from the rescue operation depicted teams equipped with GPS devices and head torches searching the dark mountainside amidst harsh weather conditions.

International responses included expressions of concern and offers of assistance. The White House confirmed that U.S. President Joe Biden had been briefed on the crash. China expressed deep concern, and the European Union offered emergency satellite mapping technology to aid in the investigation.

Raisi, known for his hardline stance and viewed as a significant figure in Iran’s political future, leaves behind a complex legacy as the nation grapples with this sudden loss.