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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Killed in Helicopter Crash

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian were killed in a helicopter crash in mountainous terrain under icy weather conditions, an Iranian official reported on Monday. Search teams found the wreckage in East Azerbaijan province.

“President Raisi, the foreign minister, and all passengers on the helicopter were killed in the crash,” the senior Iranian official told Reuters, requesting anonymity due to the sensitivity of the situation.

Iran’s Mehr news agency confirmed the deaths, stating, “All passengers of the helicopter carrying the Iranian president and foreign minister were martyred.”

Earlier reports indicated the helicopter carrying Raisi and Amirabdollahian was completely burned in the crash on Sunday. State TV showed images of the aircraft wrecked on a mountain peak, though the cause of the crash remains unconfirmed.

Iran’s state news agency IRNA reported that Raisi was flying in a U.S.-made Bell 212 helicopter.

Raisi, 63, was elected president in 2021 and had since implemented stricter morality laws, overseen a harsh crackdown on anti-government protests, and played a significant role in nuclear negotiations with global powers.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reassured the nation, stating that there would be no disruption to state affairs.

Prayers and Searches

Rescue teams battled through blizzards and challenging terrain overnight to reach the wreckage early Monday morning. “With the discovery of the crash site, no signs of life have been detected among the helicopter’s passengers,” Pirhossein Kolivand, head of Iran’s Red Crescent, told state TV.

National broadcaster IRIB halted regular programming to air prayers for Raisi nationwide. Footage showed rescue teams navigating the dark, snowy mountainside with GPS devices and head torches.

Several countries expressed concern and offered assistance. The White House confirmed that President Joe Biden had been briefed on the crash. China expressed deep concern, and the European Union offered emergency satellite mapping technology.

Hardliner and Potential Successor to Khamenei

The crash occurs amid growing dissent in Iran over various political, social, and economic crises. Iran’s leadership faces international scrutiny over its nuclear program and deepening military ties with Russia during the Ukraine conflict.

In Iran’s dual political system, Khamenei, 85, who has been the supreme leader since 1989, holds ultimate decision-making power. Raisi had been considered a strong contender to succeed Khamenei, having secured his mentor’s endorsement.

Raisi’s victory in the 2021 election brought all branches of power under hardliner control, following the presidency of pragmatist Hassan Rouhani. However, Raisi’s reputation suffered due to widespread protests against clerical rule and economic struggles exacerbated by Western sanctions.

Raisi had been at the Azerbaijani border on Sunday to inaugurate the Qiz-Qalasi Dam, a joint project. Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, who bid a “friendly farewell” to Raisi earlier that day, offered rescue assistance.

Source: Reuters

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