Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi Dies in Helicopter Crash

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was reported dead on Sunday following a helicopter crash in a mountainous northwestern region of Iran. Iranian media announced Raisi’s death on Monday, although there has been no official confirmation yet. The crash occurred as Raisi was returning from a visit to the border with Azerbaijan.

“The president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi, had an accident while serving and performing his duty for the people of Iran and was martyred,” stated Iran’s Mehr agency, with other media outlets corroborating the news. Iranian state media, IRNA, released footage showing the helicopter’s wreckage discovered by the Relief and Rescue Organization of the Red Crescent. A Turkish drone detected heat from the suspected crash site, sharing the coordinates with Iranian authorities.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reassured the nation that state affairs would continue uninterrupted. Iranian state media attributed the crash to poor weather conditions, which also hampered rescue efforts. The helicopter, a US-made Bell 212, crashed amidst a snowy blizzard, complicating the search and rescue operations. The national broadcaster paused regular programming to air prayers for Raisi.

Neighboring countries expressed their concern and offered assistance. The White House reported that President Joe Biden was briefed on the crash. Turkey provided a drone, a helicopter, vehicles, and a rescue team, while the European Union offered emergency satellite mapping technology.

Raisi, 63, who was elected president in 2021, was considered a hardliner and a potential successor to Khamenei. He had recently overseen a crackdown on anti-government protests and had been involved in nuclear negotiations. Raisi’s visit to the Azerbaijani border was to inaugurate the Qiz-Qalasi Dam, a joint project. Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, who had met Raisi earlier in the day, offered assistance in the rescue efforts.

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