Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi Dead At 63 After Helicopter Crash

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi died Sunday in a helicopter accident after the craft crashed in the mountains, the country’s state-run news agency said early Monday morning. He was 63.

The country’s foreign minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, a provincial governor and other officials were also on board during the crash and declared dead.

The news shocked Iran and the world as officials said a massive search and rescue operation was underway. Raisi had been traveling with an entourage to the country’s border with Azerbaijan, where he jointly inaugurated a new dam with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.

The helicopter crashed near the border around 1 p.m. local time, and officials said earlier there was bad weather and heavy fog in the area. An official cause of the accident has not yet been determined. Rescue teams had searched through dense forest for more than 12 hours, at times calling off the search due to the fierce weather.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was one of nine people on the helicopter when it crashed on Sunday, state-run media said.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was one of nine people on the helicopter when it crashed on Sunday, state-run media said. Vahid Salemi/Associated Press File Photo

The country’s first vice president, Mohammad Mokhber, will serve as interim president until elections are held, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei saidMonday.

Khamenei has said the country’s operation “will carry on smoothly and orderly” during the crisis.

“There will be no disruption in the country’s operation,” the supreme leader said in an address shortly after the crash was reported.

Iran’s Cabinet also held an emergency meeting and pledged that “with the help of God and the people, there will be no problem with management of the country,” according to The Associated Press. The Cabinet left a seat at the center of a conference table empty during the meeting to commemorate the president, according to photos shared by IRNA, the state-run news agency.

Raisi, who was elected in 2021, had widely been seen as a potential successor to the ayatollah. He previously led the country’s judiciary and was known as a hard-line leader who crushed dissent during violent crackdowns. Under his tenure, Iran began enriching uranium at near-weapon-grade levels, and the country has supported Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Iran has also seen years of large-scale protests against the government and ruling theocracy.

Tensions between Israel and Iran have flared in recent months amid the ongoing conflict with Hamas. Iran launched its first direct attack on Israel last month in retaliation for the killing of an Iranian military leader, sending 300 drones and missiles toward the country, most of which were shot down.

New elections must be organized within 50 days, although those plans could be complicated with the ongoing war.