Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi confirmed dead in helicopter crash

The helicopter, which was also carrying Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, went down in poor weather.

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian have been confirmed killed after the helicopter they were travelling in crashed in poor weather.

The bodies of the people aboard were found on Monday morning, some hours after their helicopter crashed in Iran’s northwestern region, state media reported. The accident challenges the country’s senior leadership as Iran sits in the midst of heightened regional and global tensions centred on the war in Gaza.

Rescuers from the Iranian Red Crescent had fought through dense fog, blizzards and mountainous terrain to reach the site of the crash in the East Azerbaijan province. On finding the wreckage, they had reported “no sign of life”.

State TV gave no immediate cause for the crash, which also killed the governor of East Azerbaijan province and other officials, bodyguards and crew members, according to the state-run IRNA News Agency.

A black burned area on a wooded mountainside. The blue and white tail of a helicopter can be seen.
State media showed a video from the Red Crescent of the helicopter crash site [Handout/Iranian Red Crescent via AFP]

Raisi, 63, was elected president on his second attempt in 2021, and since taking office, has overseen a tightening of morality laws, a bloody crackdown on antigovernment protests triggered by the death in custody of 22-year-old woman Mahsa Amini, and taken a tougher approach to nuclear talks with world powers.

Last month, he ordered an unprecedented drone-and-missile attack on Israel, following an alleged Israeli strike on Iran’s embassy compound in Damascus which killed 13 people including a top commander and his deputy.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds ultimate power in Iran, had earlier sought to reassure Iranians, some of whom turned out to pray for Raisi’s wellbeing, saying there would be no disruption to state affairs.

Raisi, a hardliner who formerly led the country’s judiciary, is viewed as a protege of the 85-year-old Khamenei.

‘We found it’

Raisi was travelling home to Tehran when state television said his helicopter made a “hard landing” near Jolfa, a city on the border with Azerbaijan, some 600km (375 miles) northwest of the Iranian capital. Later, state media put the crash location farther east near the village of Uzi, but details remained contradictory.

Earlier on Monday, Turkish authorities released what they described as drone footage showing what appeared to be a fire in the wilderness that they “suspected to be [the] wreckage of [a] helicopter”. The coordinates listed in the footage put the fire some 20km (12 miles) south of the Azerbaijan-Iranian border on the side of a steep mountain.

INTERACTIVE Iran president dies Raisi Amirabdollahian helicopter crash-1716183879

Footage released by the IRNA showed what the agency described as the crash site, across a steep valley in a green mountain range. Soldiers speaking in the local Azeri language said: “There it is, we found it.”

Shortly after, state TV in an on-screen scrolling text, said: “There is no sign of life from people on board.”

It did not elaborate, but the semiofficial Tasnim News Agency showed rescuers using a small drone to fly over the site. Speaking among themselves they were heard coming to the same conclusion. The footage showed the tail of the helicopter surrounded by burnt debris.


Under Iran’s constitution, in the event of a president’s death, the vice first president takes over on a temporary basis. A new presidential election must then be called within 50 days.

Announcing five days of mourning just before midday on Monday, Ali Khamenei confirmed First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber as the interim head of the country’s executive branch. He will be required to oversee the organisation of an election to take place in July at the latest.

Mokhber is seen as being close to the supreme leader. Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri, Tehran’s top nuclear negotiator, has been appointed as acting foreign minister.

The Iranian government will continue to operate “without the slightest disruption”, a cabinet statement pronounced on Monday.

“We assure the loyal nation that the path of service will continue with the tireless spirit of Ayatollah Raisi,” it added.

The need to replace leadership is pressing as Iran remains in the midst of heightened tensions in the Middle East.

Israel’s war in Gaza has prompted lower-level conflicts with Iran-backed groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen. Last month, Iran and Israel swapped direct strikes at one another.

Iran is also accused of supplying Russia with drones for use in its invasion of Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the US and Western partners have grown ever more wary of Iran’s nuclear programme, with the UN urging Tehran to improve its cooperation with inspections.

Source: News Agencies