Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi Dies in Helicopter Crash

Ebrahim Raisi, the strict Iranian leader, passed away in a helicopter accident during foggy conditions near the mountains close to the Azerbaijan border.

The burned remains of the plane, which crashed on Sunday with Raisi, the foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and six others on board, were discovered early Monday after a search in blizzard conditions.

Fears had been growing for Raisi, a 63-year-old ultraconservative, after contact was lost with the helicopter on Sunday as it navigated fog-covered mountains in north-west Iran.

Ebrahim Raisi

The leader of the country, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, announced that the first vice-president, Mohammad Mokhber, will serve as interim president. Ali Bagheri Kani, the deputy foreign minister, was named as the acting foreign minister.

Khamenei declared a period of five days for public mourning and expressed sympathy to the people of Iran. Mokhber, similar to Raisi, is considered to have a strong connection with Khamenei.

According to Iran's constitution, a fresh presidential election needs to take place every 50 years.

Ebrahim Raisi

Iranian state media attributed the crash to adverse weather conditions, which were also hindering the rescue operations. According to Tasnim news agency, Raisi's convoy consisted of three helicopters, and the remaining two had successfully reached their intended location.

The event occurred close to Jolfa, a city near the border with Azerbaijan, approximately 375 miles (600km) northwest of Tehran, the capital of Iran. The president was on a trip in Iran's East Azerbaijan province.

The IRNA news agency showed a video of an Iranian Red Crescent team climbing a hill in dense fog, along with live footage of worshippers praying at the holy shrine of Imam Reza in Mashhad, Raisi's hometown.

Ebrahim Raisi

The Red Crescent dispatched over 70 rescue teams equipped with search dogs and drones to the location. Additionally, the chief of staff of Iran's army instructed the deployment of all available resources from the army and the elite Revolutionary Guards.

Raisi visited Azerbaijan on Sunday to open a dam with President Ilham Aliyev. This is the third dam built by both countries on the Aras River. Despite strained relations and past incidents, the visit took place.

Iran has several helicopters, but it's hard to get parts for them due to international sanctions. Many of its military helicopters are from before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Iraq, Qatar, and even Saudi Arabia, a long- regional adversary, expressed their good wishes and offered support to the countries in the area. The Saudi foreign ministry closely monitored the crash reports with deep concern, as stated by the country's state news agency.

An American official, speaking anonymously, mentioned that Joe Biden, the President of the , was informed about the crash.

The president of Turkey expressed his sadness about the crash and sent his best wishes to the Iranian people and government. He hoped to hear good news from Mr. Raisi and his team soon.

The EU provided urgent satellite mapping to assist Iran in the search, while a representative from the US state department, a rival of Iran, stated: “We are monitoring closely the news of a potential helicopter crash in Iran involving the Iranian president and foreign minister.”

Hamas, supported by Iran, is fighting against Israeli forces in Gaza. They expressed sympathy to the Iranian people for their loss. Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthi rebels in Yemen also praised Raisi and mourned his death.

Raisi, a former judiciary leader, was known as a hardliner and seen as a protege of Khamenei. Some analysts believed he could succeed the 85-year-old leader.

Raisi emerged as the winner of Iran's 2021 presidential election, which had the lowest voter turnout in the country's history. He faced US sanctions due to his role in the killing of political prisoners in 1988 after the Iran-Iraq war.

Iran, under Raisi's leadership, significantly increased the enrichment of uranium, reaching levels close to those required for weapons. It also obstructed international inspections. Moreover, Iran provided weapons to Russia during the conflict in Ukraine and carried out a significant drone and missile assault on Israel. Additionally, it continues to support proxy groups like the Houthi rebels and Hezbollah in the Middle East.

Mass demonstrations have been ongoing in the for many years. The latest one was sparked by the tragic death of Mahsa Amini in 2022, a who was arrested for not wearing a hijab as per the authorities' standards.

The security crackdown that lasted for months after the protests resulted in the deaths of over 500 individuals and the detention of more than 22,000 people.

Reuters contributed to this report

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