Rescuers recovered the bodies of the Iranian president, foreign minister and six other passengers and crew after a helicopter crash in northern Iran near the border with Azerbaijan. The helicopter crashed in bad weather – although officials aren’t ruling out third party interference – in the Dizmar Forest in a mountainous region of Iran, making rescue efforts for the Iranian Red Crescent extremely difficult. (Credit: MEMO)

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi has died after his helicopter crashed amid heavy fog in northern Iran along with the country’s Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, and other senior officials, after it crashed in a mountainous region in north-western Iran.

The charred wreckage of the helicopter, which crashed yesterday 19th May, was found in the early hours after an overnight search in blizzard conditions. “President Raisi, the foreign minister, and all the passengers in the helicopter were killed in the crash,” a senior Iranian official told Reuters.

Minutes after the Red Crescent Society announced its team had reached the crash site, state TV reported there were “no signs of life,” and an official stated the helicopter had been “completely burned.” The state-run Mehr news agency subsequently announced that the president and foreign minister had been “martyred.”

Earlier reports indicated the aircraft had experienced a “rough landing” near Jolfa, an Iranian city on the border of the Azerbaijani exclave Nakhchivan, approximately 600 kilometres northwest of Tehran. The crash also claimed the lives of the governor of East Azerbaijan Province and a senior imam from Tabriz city.

Raisi, 63, elected in 2021, was a principlist and former head of the judiciary. During his tenure he tightened morality laws, oversaw a crackdown on protests and pushed nuclear talks with world powers, while also bringing Tehran closer to China.

International leaders have shared their reactions, including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who said he was “deeply saddened and shocked by the tragic demise.”

The Palestinian resistance movement, Hamas, also expressed solidarity with the Islamic Republic, saying it shares the “pain and sorrow” of the Iranian people.

“We are confident that the Islamic Republic of Iran will overcome the implications of this great loss; the brotherly Iranian people have institutions that can deal with this severe crisis,” Hamas said in a statement.

According to Tehran Times, if the Iranian president dies during their term, Article 131 of the Constitution mandates that the first vice president assumes the presidency, subject to confirmation by the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenai. Mohammad Mokhber, the current first vice president, is widely believed to be Raisi’s successor. As per the constitution, a council comprising the first vice president, the parliament speaker and the judiciary head must organise a new presidential election within 50 days.