Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi dies in Helicopter crash

Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and two others also feared dead

Russia has sent two helicopters to assist in the efforts of the Iranian government in the recovery operations at the site of the plane crash that killed President Ebrahim Raisi and others (Teheran Times Photo)

Venkat Raman
Auckland, May 20, 2024

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was killed in a helicopter accident while returning from Tabriz, a city close to the Azerbaijan border in the late hours of Sunday, May 19, 2024.

IRNA, the Iranian News Agency, reported that along with Raisi, Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, the Leader’s Representative to East Azerbaijan Province Seyyed Mohammad Ali Ale-Hashem and Eastern Azerbaijan Province Governor Malek Rahmati also died in the crash.

State-run Iran TV had earlier said that there was ‘no sign of life’ at the site of the crash and that the ill-fated helicopter was one of the three travelling in a convoy and it made a hard landing in thick fog conditions in the north of Iran.

IRNA quoted Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi as saying that the President and his entourage were flying back from a visit to a border area in the Northwestern Province of East Azerbaijan.

“The incident happened in the mountainous protected forest area of Dizmar near the town of Varzaghan. Forty search teams had been dispatched to the region but poor weather made it difficult for them to reach the crash site,” he said.

A commander of Iran’s Revolution Guards Corps confirmed the detection of the heat source was believed to be the wreckage of the helicopter. The field source said it determined the precise geographical coordinates of the helicopter carrying President Raisi by aerial monitoring of the region.

Iranian Red Crescent Society President Pir-Hossein Kolivand has confirmed that rescue and search teams have identified the crashed helicopter carrying Mr Raisi and Amir-Abdollahian.

“The condition is not good,” he said without giving details but it is understood that 73 rescue teams are still in the search area with advanced and specialised equipment.

Earlier, the Red Crescent’s National Emergency Management Headquarters announced that its rescue teams have moved to the two hot spots identified by a Turkish drone.

“Red Crescent rescue teams are moving towards the possible landing place of the helicopter,” it said after Turkey’s high-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle named Akinji detected a hot spot that probably belongs to the place where the helicopter crashed.

Ebrahim Raisi was known as a Principalist (interchangeable between Conservatives and the Right Wing)
IRNA Photo by Ali Sharifzadeh

About Ebrahim Raisi

President Raisi was often seen as a politician seated in the centre of conservative and hardline factions of the Iranian polity. He became the President of his country after the general election held on August 3, 2021. He was popularly believed to be the successor to the 85-year-old Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran.

Mr Raisi was 63 years old and was known as a Principalist (interchangeable with Conservatives or representing the Right Wing). He served in Iran’s Judicial System in various capacities: Jurist, Deputy Prosecutor, Prosecutor, Attorney-General, Deputy Chief Justice and Chief Justice.

He was the Custodian and Chairman of Astan Quds Razavi, a bonyad (a highly powerful Trust), a member of the Assembly of Experts from South Khorasan Province, being elected for the first time in the 2006 election. He was the son-in-law of Mashhad Friday prayer leader and Grand Imam of Imam Reza shrine, Ahmad Alamolhoda.

Messages from World Leaders

World leaders have mourned the death of President Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

India’s Prime Minister said that he was ‘deeply saddened, by President Raisi’s death, adding that the late Iranian President contributed “to strengthening the India-Iran bilateral relationship.”

“(I am) deeply saddened and shocked by the tragic demise of Dr Seyed Ebrahim Raisi, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. His contribution to strengthening the India-Iran bilateral relationship will always be remembered. My heartfelt condolences to his family and the people of Iran. India stands with Iran in this time of sorrow,” he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin met Iran’s Ambassador Kazem Jalali in Moscow hours after the confirmation of the helicopter crash. Among those present were Defence Minister Andrey Belousov, National Security Council Secretary Sergei Shoigu, Chief of the Joint Staff of the Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov, Civil Defence, Emergencies and Disaster Relief Minister Alexander Korenkov, Special Assistant to the President Igor Levitin.

“President Putin said that he was very saddened and will do whatever is necessary to help. Please convey my message to the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution that we are ready to do whatever is necessary,” Mr Jalai said.

Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev who inaugurated with President Raisi, the Qiz Qalasi Dam at the border between the two countries earlier on Sunday (May 19), expressed concern over the incident and announced Baku’s readiness to help Iran.

The Armenian Foreign Ministry expressed shock in a post on its X account.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with President Raisi and Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and all others reported to be at the site. As rescue operations continue, Armenia, as a close and friendly neighbour of Iran, is ready to provide all necessary support.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed sympathy and said that he is following developments regarding the incident. Turkiye’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority also announced that they had dispatched a team to Iran to help in the search and rescue operation for Raisi and his entourage.

In Pakistan, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, President Asif Ali Zardari and Parliament Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq issued separate messages, expressing deep concern over the incident involving President Raisi and his entourage. They prayed for Raisi and expressed solidarity with the Iranian nation at these difficult times.

US President Joe Biden has yet to issue a statement but an administration official said that the US government was ‘carefully assessing the situation.”

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