Helicopter carrying Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi crashes: state media

Helicopter carrying Iran's President crashed

A helicopter carrying Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi crashed during landing in poor weather on Sunday, confirmed state media IRNA.

 “A helicopter carrying Iran’s President Raisi had an accident in the Jofa region of East Azerbaijan province,” reported state television, noting that rescue efforts are underway. “Harsh weather conditions and heavy fog have made it difficult for rescue teams to reach the accident site,” the news alert added.

Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, East Azerbaijan Governor Malek Rahmati, and others were also onboard the convoy of three helicopters. The other two landed safely. The accident happened as Raisi was returning from East Azerbaijan province, where he inaugurated a dam project with his Azeri counterpart, Ilham Aliev, on the border.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reassured Iranians that state affairs would not be disrupted. State media attributed the crash to bad weather, which is also complicating rescue efforts. The chief of staff of Iran’s army ordered all army and Revolutionary Guard resources to assist in the search and rescue operations.

“It is dark and raining, but the search continues. Rescue teams have reached the area, but the rain has created mud, making the search difficult,” a local reporter told state TV.

The national broadcaster interrupted regular programming to show prayers being held for Raisi across the country. In the corner of the screen, live coverage displayed rescue teams deployed on foot in the mountainous area amid heavy fog.

IRCS statement

Pir Hossein Kolivand, head of the Iranian Red Crescent Society (IRCS), told Iran’s Tasnim news agency that “40 rapid response teams from the IRCS are currently conducting search operations” in the area where President Raisi’s helicopter reportedly crashed.

Kolivand noted that “weather conditions are extremely unfavorable and the terrain is difficult to navigate,” but assured that “we are making every effort to carry out the necessary actions.”

“We have utilized drones and aerial measures, but due to poor weather conditions, aerial search operations are not feasible. The area is rugged and mountainous,” he added.

“We have also dispatched forces from specific provinces to ensure more personnel are on-site.”

‘Lives at Risk’

An Iranian official told Reuters that the helicopter carrying Ebrahim Raisi and others crashed while crossing mountain terrain. The official stated that the lives of those on board were “at risk following the helicopter crash.”

“We are still hopeful, but information coming from the crash site is very concerning,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. State news agency IRNA reported that bad weather was complicating rescue efforts.

Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi later said that one of the helicopters “made a hard landing due to bad weather conditions,” adding that it was “difficult to establish communication” with the aircraft.

Iran flies various helicopters, but international sanctions make it challenging to obtain parts. Its military air fleet largely dates back to before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

International reactions

In a statement on X, Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari expressed deep concern about the crash and extended his wishes to the Iranian president and foreign minister.

“My heartfelt prayers and good wishes for the well-being and safety of President Raisi so that he may continue to serve the Iranian nation,” he posted.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif expressed concerns and extended well wishes to President Raisi.

“Waiting anxiously for good news that all is well,” he wrote. “Our prayers and best wishes are with President Raisi and the entire Iranian nation.”

A spokesperson for the US State Department stated that they were “closely watching” reports of the helicopter crash.

Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry expressed being “deeply disturbed” by the reports of the helicopter crash and prayed for “the safety of the government officials involved in the accident.”

Posting on X, the ministry said, “Azerbaijan is ready to provide all necessary support as a friendly and brotherly state.”

Years of crisis and conflict

Ebrahim Raisi assumed the presidency of the Islamic Republic in June 2021, succeeding the moderate Hassan Rouhani during a period marked by crises and conflicts. He inherited a nation grappling with social unrest and an economy strained by US sanctions imposed over Iran’s disputed nuclear program.

During his presidency, Iran experienced significant events, including mass protests sparked by the death of Iranian Kurd Mahsa Amini in custody in September 2022. In March 2023, Iran and regional rival Saudi Arabia surprised the world by restoring diplomatic relations. However, tensions escalated again with the bombardment in Gaza in October 2023, leading to tit-for-tat escalations and Iran launching hundreds of missiles and rockets directly at Israel in April 2024.

In a speech after inaugurating a dam on Sunday, Raisi reiterated Iran’s unwavering support for Palestinians, a cornerstone of its foreign policy since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Born in 1960 in Mashhad, northeastern Iran, Raisi quickly ascended to prominent positions. At just 20, he became prosecutor-general of Karaj, adjacent to Tehran. He served as Tehran’s prosecutor-general from 1989 to 1994, then as deputy chief of the Judicial Authority for a decade starting in 2004, before becoming national prosecutor-general in 2014.

Raisi’s black turban symbolizes his direct lineage from the Prophet Mohammed, and he holds the religious title of “Hujjatul Islam,” one rank below that of ayatollah in the Shiite clerical hierarchy.

Recently, Raisi visited Pakistan for a three-day trip, during which both countries pledged to increase trade volume to $10 billion over the next five years and sought to repair ties following missile strikes exchanged in January.

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