Iran’s Hardline President Ebrahim Raisi Dies in Helicopter Crash

Iranian Presidency/Handout/Anadolu via Getty
Iranian Presidency/Handout/Anadolu via Getty

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has died along with the foreign minister and a number of others after the helicopter they were traveling in crashed in the country’s northwest. He was 63.

The Associated Press, citing state-run news agency IRNA, confirmed the deaths, adding Iranian state TV gave no immediate cause for the crash. Iran’s Press TV confirmed the deaths, though did not cite a source. The report echoes other Iranian media reports including Mehr and Tasmin.

According to The Washington Post, a state TV news anchor “choked up” as she announced the news on live television in Tehran just before 8 .a.m. local time.

Details were still scant, however a search-and-rescue team looking for the remains of the crashed helicopter found the heavily damaged aircraft early Monday morning—but reported that “no signs of life” were detected in the area and that “no survivors” had been found, according to state media.

The governor of Iran’s East Azerbaijan province was also on board, along with other officials and bodyguards, IRNA reported.

Drone footage published by the state-run FARS News Agency and viewed by CNN showed the burnt-out hull of the aircraft, of which little remained beyond its tail. The helicopter went down on a “steep, wooded hillside,” the network reported.

According to IRNA, the government Cabinet “convened an urgent meeting” in Iran after news of the disaster.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi was one of the first foreign leaders to pay tribute, saying on X that he is “deeply saddened and shocked by the tragic demise” of Raisi.

One unidentified official earlier told Reuters that Tehran was rapidly losing hope that Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, and the seven other people on board were still alive—especially given the harsh terrain and freezing conditions in the northern mountains near the country’s border with Azerbaijan, where the helicopter went down.

“President Raisi’s helicopter was completely burned in the crash ... unfortunately, all passengers are feared dead,” the official said.

Rescuers were decidedly more optimistic just hours earlier, when emergency crews received a signal from one of the crew members aboard the vessel—leading the Iranian vice president for executive affairs, Mohsen Mansouri, to tell FARS that he believed the incident was “not severe,” according to CNN.

IRNA initially described the incident as a “hard landing.”

Raisi, colloquially known as the “Butcher of Tehran” for his role in the death of thousands of political prisoners, was returning from a diplomatic visit to Azerbaijan when the chopper went down Sunday. Rescuers were immediately hampered by poor weather conditions in the area, and took hours to locate the site given the thick fog and muddy terrain.

Following the crash, Raisi’s official Instagram account posted a plea for Iranians to “pray for the wellbeing of the President and companions”—leading thousands to gather in the streets and elsewhere. The national broadcaster even stopped its regular programming in favor of a live feed of prayers happening across the country.

Others, however, celebrated openly as Raisi’s apparent death was reported, including some who reportedly set off fireworks in the streets.

Iranians pray for the President Ebrahim Raisi and his delegation following a helicopter crash.

Iranians pray for the President Ebrahim Raisi and his delegation following a helicopter crash.

Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu via Getty Images

The Iranian president was a favorite of the country’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, and was often mentioned as a potential successor to the 85-year-old.

Iran’s military aircraft fleet is much older than many peer nations, according to the Associated Press, and it has experienced difficulty modernizing given punishing international sanctions.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

Get the Daily Beast's biggest scoops and scandals delivered right to your inbox. Sign up now.

Stay informed and gain unlimited access to the Daily Beast's unmatched reporting. Subscribe now.