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State Media Confirm Iran’s President and Others Dead in Helicopter Crash

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Iranian state media announced on Monday that President Ebrahim Raisi died in a helicopter crash in a mountainous region of the country.

The government has yet to officially confirm the president’s death.

Rescue teams had been searching since Sunday afternoon after a helicopter carrying Raisi, the foreign minister, and other officials went missing. Early Monday, relief workers located the helicopter, with state TV reporting the president’s death.

“The servant of the Iranian nation, Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi, has achieved the highest level of martyrdom whilst serving the people,” state television said, with Mehr news agency also confirming his death. State TV broadcast photos of Raisi with a man reciting the Koran in the background.

Iran’s vice president for executive affairs, Mohsen Mansouri, posted a Koranic verse on X expressing condolences.

Fears had been growing for the 63-year-old ultraconservative after contact was lost with the helicopter carrying him, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and others in East Azerbaijan province on Sunday. According to Tasnim news agency, nine people were on board.

Iran’s Red Crescent chief, Pirhossein Koolivand, said rescue teams headed toward the crash site after locating the helicopter. “We are seeing the helicopter. The situation is not good,” Koolivand reported.

State TV stated, “Upon finding the helicopter, there was no sign of the helicopter passengers being alive,” about 15 hours after it went missing. Iranian media, including Fars news agency, shared drone images of the wreckage.

State TV first reported Sunday afternoon that “an accident happened to the helicopter carrying the president” in the Jolfa region of East Azerbaijan province. Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi said the helicopter “made a hard landing” in bad weather and urged people to rely on state television for information.

Raisi’s convoy included three helicopters, with the other two reaching their destination safely, Tasnim news agency reported.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei assured Iranians that “there will be no disruption in the country’s work.”

Expressions of concern and offers of help came from countries including Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Russia, China, and Turkey, as well as the European Union, which activated its rapid response mapping service.

Iran’s cabinet held an emergency meeting led by Vice President Mohammad Mokhber, IRNA news agency reported. Army, Revolutionary Guard, and police officers were involved in the search, with Red Crescent teams shown walking up a hill in the mist and emergency vehicles on standby.

Raisi had visited the northwestern province to inaugurate a dam project with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev. Aliyev expressed his concern on X, noting the crash-landing news.

Foreign countries closely followed the search amid high regional tensions over the Gaza conflict between Israel and Hamas. A US State Department spokesman confirmed they were monitoring the situation, and US President Joe Biden was briefed.

Raisi has been president since 2021, succeeding moderate Hassan Rouhani, during a period of economic struggle due to US sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program. Iran has also faced protests since the death of Mahsa Amini in 2022.

In March 2023, Iran and Saudi Arabia restored diplomatic relations in a surprise deal. The Gaza conflict escalated regional tensions, leading to Tehran launching missiles and rockets at Israel in April 2023.

During Sunday’s dam inauguration, Raisi emphasized Iran’s support for Palestinians, a key aspect of its foreign policy since the 1979 Islamic revolution. “We believe that Palestine is the first issue of the Muslim world,” Raisi stated.

Hamas expressed solidarity with Iran following the incident, acknowledging the country’s leadership and support.

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