Iran’s President Raisi, Foreign Minister Amirabdollahian killed in helicopter crash

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi speaks during a meeting with the cabinet in Tehran, Iran, October 8, 2023.

Wana News Agency | Reuters

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian died in a helicopter crash, state media reported Monday.

“All the passengers of the helicopter carrying the Iranian president and foreign minister were martyred,” semi-official news agency Mehr News had reported earlier.

Raisi was returning after inaugurating a dam on Iran’s common border with the Azerbaijan Republic, when his helicopter crashed upon landing in northern Iran’s Varzaqan region on Sunday evening local time, according to state news agency IRNA.

Besides the president and the foreign minister, nine people died in the crash, including Governor of East Azarbaijan Malek Rahmati, semi-official Tasnim News Agency reported.

The president’s convoy included three helicopters, two of which landed safely, according to Tasnim.

Communication with Raisi’s chopper was cut off about half an hour into the flight, Iran’s Vice President for Executive Affairs Mohsen Mansouri said. Raisi was travelling to Tabriz city to launch an oil project.

Inclement weather conditions and difficult terrain had hampered search and rescue operations, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps’ chief Pirhossein Koulivand, reportedly said.

Drone footage published on state media FARS News Agency showed the chopper’s wreckage on a steep hillside.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed condolences on social media platform X, saying Raisi’s “contribution to strengthening India-Iran bilateral relationship will always be remembered.”

Venezuela’s president Nicolás Maduro called Raisi an “extraordinary leader.”

Former Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif also condoled the death of the president and others in the crash.

“The consequences of this are probably going to be rather contained,” Ali Ahmadi, executive fellow at the Geneva Center for Security Policy, told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia.”

President Raisi was a fairly marginal figure in national security decision, said Ahmadi, adding that Iranian foreign policy is principally governed by the Office of the Supreme Leader and the Iranian military.

Raisi, 63, a hardline, conservative politician was elected president in 2021 after failing to get into the office in 2017. He was seen as a contender to succeed supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

As president, he cracked down on dissent at home.

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