Iranian President Raisi, foreign minister die in helicopter crash

Rescue teams fought blizzards and difficult terrain through the night to reach the wreckage

By Agencies

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Published: Mon 20 May 2024, 6:58 AM

Last updated: Mon 20 May 2024, 12:22 PM

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was killed in a helicopter crash in mountainous terrain near the Azerbaijan border, officials and state media said on Monday.

The charred wreckage of the helicopter which crashed on Sunday carrying Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian was found early on Monday after an overnight search in blizzard conditions.


Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei expressed his condolences and declared five days of national mourning.

According to Mehr news agency, the helicopter carried several dignitaries, including Iran's East Azerbaijan Province Governor Malek Rahmati, and Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Ale-Hashem, the representative of the Leader of the Islamic Revolution to East Azarbaijan province.


After search teams located the wreckage in East Azerbaijan province, a senior Iranian official also confirmed to Reuters that "all the passengers in the helicopter were killed in the crash".

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State TV reported that images from the site showed the aircraft slammed into a mountain peak, although there was no official word on the cause of the crash.

State news agency IRNA said Raisi was flying in a US-made Bell 212 helicopter.

Footage shows president's helicopter wreckage
Footage shows president's helicopter wreckage

Raisi, 63, was elected president in 2021, and since taking office has ordered a tightening of morality laws, overseen a bloody crackdown on anti-government protests and pushed hard in nuclear talks with world powers.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had earlier sought to reassure Iranians, saying there would be no disruption to state affairs.

Prayer and searches

Rescue teams fought blizzards and difficult terrain through the night to reach the wreckage in the early hours of Monday.

“With the discovery of the crash site, no signs of life have been detected among the helicopter's passengers,” the head of Iran’s Red Crescent, Pirhossein Kolivand, told state TV.

Earlier, the national broadcaster had stopped all regular programming to show prayers being held for Raisi across the country.

In the early hours of Monday, it showed a rescue team, wearing bright jackets and head torches, huddled around a GPS device as they searched a pitch-black mountainside on foot in a blizzard.

Several countries expressed concern and offered assistance in any rescue, including UAE and Iraq.

The White House said US President Joe Biden had been briefed on reports about the crash. China said it was deeply concerned. The European Union offered emergency satellite mapping technology.

A helicopter carrying President Ebrahim Raisi takes off, May 19, 2024. Photo: Reuters
A helicopter carrying President Ebrahim Raisi takes off, May 19, 2024. Photo: Reuters

President Raisi was returning with Amirabdollahian and several others from a ceremony to inaugurate a dam on Iran’s border with the Azerbaijan Republic, when his helicopter crashed upon landing in Varzaqan region on Sunday.

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