• | 12:05 pm

Iran’s president Ebrahim Raisi dies in helicopter crash 

Foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian was also among the deceased, Iran’s state media reported

Iran’s president Ebrahim Raisi dies in helicopter crash 
[Source photo: Chetan Jha/Press Insider]

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has died in a helicopter crash in the mountainous region of the country’s north-west, state media reported.

Raisi, 63, was returning from a visit to the country’s north-western province of East Azerbaijan, along with foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and other officials, when their helicopter crashed on Monday, news agency IRNA said. 

The authorities launched a massive search but struggled to reach the crash site due to difficult terrain. The crash site was in Arasbaran forest close to the country’s border with Azerbaijan. 

The entourage was returning following the inauguration of a dam in East Azerbaijan that was attended by top officials of the Iranian government. 

After losing his first presidential election to incumbent Hassan Rouhani in 2017, Raisi was elected to power in 2021. 

Since coming to power, Raisi faced major challenges at home and abroad. A protest that started with the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini in September 2022 turned into a massive anti-government movement demanding rights for women. Iran has faced heightened tensions with Israel since Hamas’ attack on Israel on 7 October 2023 and Tel Aviv’s incessant bombing of Gaza since then. 

Just last month, Iran launched an unprecedented drone-and-missile attack on Israel in retaliation to an air-strike on its embassy in Damascus that killed a top Iranian general. 

Amid all this, Raisi’s profile has been rising. He was expected to seek re-election in next year’s election and was even seen as a top contender to succeed Iran’s ageing supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Born in the northeastern city of Mashhad in 1960, Raisi lost his father, a cleric, when he was five years old. Raisi followed his father’s footsteps and attended an Islamic seminary in the holy city of Qom. As a student, he took part in protests against the US-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who was dethroned in the 1979 Islamic Revolution led by exiled cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Raisi grew to become an Islamic law scholar and served as a prosecutor for several years. In 2017, Raisi contested the presidential election against Hassan Rouhani but lost. In 2019, Ayatollah Khamenei named him as head of the country’s judiciary.

In 2021, he secured a victory in the presidential election that recorded the lowest voter turnout49%in the Islamic Republic’s history. 

Modi, Jaishankar send condolences

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was saddened and shocked by the sudden demise of Raisi. 

“Deeply saddened and shocked by the tragic demise of Dr. Seyed Ebrahim Raisi, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. His contribution to strengthening India-Iran bilateral relationship will always be remembered,” Modi in a post on X.

“My heartfelt condolences to his family and the people of Iran. India stands with Iran in this time of sorrow,” He added. 

Expressing condolence, external affairs minister recalled his recent meetings with President Raisi and minister Amir-Abdollahian.

“Deeply shocked to hear of the passing away of Iran’s President Dr Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister H. Amir-Abdollahian in the helicopter crash. Recall my many meetings with them, most recently in January 2024,” Jaishankar said. 

“Our condolences to their families. We stand with the people of Iran at time of this tragedy,” he added. 

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