Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi Among Eight Killed in Helicopter Crash Near Azerbaijan Border

The tragic incident occurred near the border with Azerbaijan as the president's delegation was en route from a dam inauguration ceremony.

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Iranian authorities have confirmed that President Ebrahim Raisi and seven other officials were killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday. The tragic incident occurred near the border with Azerbaijan as the president’s delegation was en route from a dam inauguration ceremony.

Details of the Crash: President Raisi was flying to the East Azerbaijan province for the inauguration of the Qiz Qalasi and Khoda Afarin dams, a joint hydroelectric project with Azerbaijan. After bidding farewell to Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, Raisi’s helicopter departed towards Tabriz, where he was scheduled to inaugurate another project.

The crash site was discovered after daybreak on Monday in a remote mountainous area approximately 58km south of the Qiz-Qalasi Dam. The helicopter reportedly encountered heavy fog and rain, leading to a “hard landing” as described by Iranian officials.

Victims: Among those killed were Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, East Azerbaijan Governor Malek Rahmati, and senior cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Al-e Hashem. Also on board were IRGC Brig-Gen Mohammad Mehdi Mousavi, the president’s security head, pilots Col Mohsen Daryanush and Col Seyyed Taher Mostafavi, and technician Maj Behrouz Qadimi.

Rescue Efforts: Rescue teams faced significant challenges due to adverse weather and difficult terrain. The wreckage was eventually located at an altitude of around 2,200 meters. Despite initial hopes, no survivors were found, and the bodies were transferred to Tabriz for identification.

Reaction: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei expressed deep sorrow over the “bitter tragedy,” declaring five days of public mourning. The cabinet issued a statement praising Raisi’s dedication to the nation and reassuring the public of continued stable governance. Raisi’s predecessor, Hassan Rouhani, also conveyed his condolences.

Investigation: While the exact cause of the crash remains under investigation, initial reports suggest that the helicopter, identified as a Bell 212, encountered severe weather conditions. The Iranian government has faced criticism over sanctions that have hindered the acquisition of new aircraft, indirectly contributing to such incidents.

Succession: Following the death of President Raisi, Deputy President Mohammad Mokhber has been named acting president.