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Iran Confirms President Raisi’s Death in Helicopter Crash

By Nigar Bayramli May 20, 2024

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A helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and other senior officials crashed in the northwestern part of Iran on May 19, 2024. / APA

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi died after a helicopter carrying him and his entourage crashed in a foggy, mountainous region of the country’s northwest, the state news agency IRNA reported.

The eighth president of Iran, Raisi, was en route to Tabriz City on May 19, after he inaugurated Qiz Qalasi and Khudafarin hydroelectric complexes at the border with Azerbaijan and where he had met his Azerbaijani counterpart, Ilham Aliyev.

Initial reports said that the helicopter carrying Raisi and his delegation experienced a "hard landing" in a remote region, while two other helicopters returned safely.

Over 70 search and rescue teams scoured the mountainous terrain in heavy fog and the difficult weather conditions overnight and found the wreckage in the Varzaqan region in East Azerbaijan Province of Iran, early on May 20. Nine people were on board the helicopter that crashed, leaving no survivors.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, East Azerbaijan Province’s Governor Malek Rahmati, and Head of President’s Guard Team Mehdi Mousavi were onboard the crashed aircraft, along with Mohammad Ali Al-e-Hashem, the Supreme Leader’s representative in the province.

First Vice-President Mohammad Mokhber led the emergency meeting of the Iranian cabinet following the confirmation of the death. Based on the Iranian Constitution, the first vice-president would assume the power with the approval of the Supreme Leader. A council, consisting of the parliament speaker, the judiciary chief and First Vice-President Mokhber will arrange for a new presidential election within 50 days.

Raisi, 63, a hardliner politician was long seen as a potential successor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He was elected president in 2021, and since taking office has ordered a tightening of morality laws, overseen a crackdown on anti-government protests and pushed hard in nuclear talks with world powers.

Azerbaijan President Aliyev expressed his condolences to Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei over the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, and other accompanying individuals in a helicopter crash.

“On this sorrowful day, I pray to Almighty Allah to grant patience and fortitude to the friendly and brotherly people of Iran. We share in your grief and extend our deepest condolences to you, the families and loved ones of those who perished, and to your entire nation, on behalf of myself and the people of Azerbaijan,” the letter says.

A ceremony to commission the Khudafarin hydroelectric complex and inaugurate the Qiz Qalasi hydroelectric complex on the Araz River at the border between Azerbaijan and Iran, was held on May 19 with the participation of the Azerbaijani and Iranian presidents.

These complexes were built for the dual purposes of electricity generation and irrigation. Currently, the Khudafarin water reservoir holds 503 million cubic meters of water, while the Qiz Qalasi reservoir holds 42 million cubic meters, constituting 40% and 85% of their total capacities, respectively.