Iranian President Raisi dead after helicopter crash

TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, a hardliner long seen as a potential successor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was killed in a helicopter crash in mountainous terrain near the Azerbaijan border, state media reported Monday.

The charred wreckage of the helicopter, which crashed on Sunday carrying Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, was found early Monday after an overnight search in blizzard conditions.

“We are all from God and we return to Him. The servant of Imam Reza and the servant of the people, Doctor Seyed Ebrahim Raisi, the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, became a martyr in the path of serving the people,” the anchor announced. “The helicopter carrying the dear, people-friendly and popular president, who went to East Azerbaijan yesterday to visit the Khoda Afarin Dam and inaugurate several national and provincial projects, was on its way back from the dam to the Tabriz Refinery when it met with an accident due to adverse weather conditions. Despite the dispatch of dozens of rescue teams, the quick response to find the crashed helicopter took hours due to the foggy weather and the difficult path to get there. Finally, people’s aid groups and the Iranian Red Crescent discovered the crashed helicopter using Iranian drones. In this crash, Mr. Raisi, the president of Iran, and his companions, including Mr. (Hossein) Amirabdollahian, the foreign minister; Ayatollah Al-Hashem, the Friday prayers clergy of Tabriz; Mr. Rahmati, the governor of East Azerbaijan; as well as the president’s security team and the helicopter flight crew, were martyred. Following this accident, the government board convened an extraordinary meeting.”

Raisi’s death was later confirmed in a statement on social media by Vice President Mohsen Mansouri and on state television.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds ultimate power with the final say on foreign policy and Iran’s nuclear program, sought to reassure Iranians, saying there would be no disruption to state affairs.