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Iran’s president, foreign minister and others found dead at helicopter crash site


Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, along with the country’s foreign minister and others, have been discovered deceased at the location of a helicopter crash following an extensive search in a foggy, mountainous region in the northwest of the country, as reported by state media. Raisi was 63 years old.

The incident occurred amidst heightened tensions, with Iran, under Raisi and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, recently launching an unprecedented drone-and-missile attack on Israel and advancing uranium enrichment to levels closer than ever to weapons-grade.

This event comes at a sensitive time for Tehran and the future of the nation, amid ongoing mass protests against its Shiite theocracy, driven by economic woes and concerns over women’s rights. Raisi was traveling in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province when the incident occurred, near Jolfa, a city on the border with Azerbaijan, approximately 600 kilometers northwest of Tehran.

Details surrounding the crash remained unclear, with conflicting reports on the exact location and nature of the incident. Travelling alongside Raisi were Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, the governor of Iran’s East Azerbaijan province, and other officials and bodyguards, according to reports.

Efforts to reach the crash site were hindered by adverse weather conditions, including heavy rain, fog, and wind. A rescue helicopter attempted to reach the area but was unable to land due to the dense mist. Turkish authorities also provided assistance in the search efforts.

While prayers poured in for Raisi’s well-being from across the nation, including at Shiite Islam’s holiest sites, Khamenei urged the public to remain hopeful. He also emphasized that the government’s operations would continue uninterrupted, with established protocols for succession in the event of Raisi’s demise.

Raisi, a hard-liner and former head of Iran’s judiciary, had been inaugurating a dam with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev earlier in the day, despite historical tensions between the two nations. The crash underscores challenges faced by Iran in maintaining its aging military fleet amidst international sanctions.

Raisi’s presidency had been marked by confrontations with the West, including Iran’s advancement of its nuclear program and support for proxy groups in the Middle East. Mass protests within Iran have persisted, with recent unrest stemming from the death of Mahsa Amini and subsequent government crackdowns.

The Biden administration has been briefed on the incident but has relied on publicly available information from Iranian state media, according to senior administration officials.