Chopper carrying Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi crashes in mountains: Official

The incident happened near Jolfa; rescue ops underway

Iran President Ebrahim Raisi | Reuters Iran President Ebrahim Raisi | Reuters

A helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi suffered a hard landing on Sunday, as per Iranian state television. 

Reportedly, Raisi was travelling in Iran's East Azerbaijan province. The incident happened near Jolfa, a city bordering Azerbaijan. 

The immediate whereabouts of the incident are yet to be known. However, Iran's interior minister, Ahmed Vahidi, confirmed that one of the helicopters in the convoy made a "rough" landing. An Iranian official said that the president's chopper crashed in mountains.

Meanwhile, the rescuers were attempting to reach the site. Difficult weather conditions pose a challenge to the rescue teams, said Vahidi. Raisi had been in Azerbaijan early Sunday to inaugurate a dam with Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev. The dam is the third one that the two nations built on the Aras River. 

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian was also travelling with Raisi in the helicopter. It is not yet known if Raisi or any other passengers were hurt in the incident. According to officials, the lives of president and his FM were at "risk". Governor of east Azarbaijan province Malek Rahmati and a number of senior other leaders were also on board the helicopter.

Iraqi government in a statement instructed its interior ministry to offer help and assist Iran in the search after the crash.

Who is Ebrahim Raisi?

Born in 1960 in Mashhad, Raisi initially ran Iran's judiciary. He took over the country at a time when it was reeling under a deep social crisis and a strained economy by US sanctions against Tehran over its contesting nuclear programme. 

Raisi ran unsuccessfully for president in 2017 against Hassan Rouhani, the relatively moderate cleric who as president reached Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

In 2021, Raisi ran again in an election that saw all of his opponents barred from running under Iran's vetting system. He swept nearly 62% of the 28.9 million votes, the lowest turnout by percentage in the Islamic Republic's history. 

He faces sanctions from the US and other nations over his involvement in the mass execution of prisoners in 1988. Around 5,000 people were executed. 

As president, Raisi supported the country's enrichment of uranium up to near-weapons-grade levels. 

Iran also saw a wave of protests triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini in September 2022, where Raisi supported the country's security services as they cracked down on all dissent. Further, regional tensions have been escalating since the Israel-Hamas war. At least 11 people, including two generals of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, were killed in an Israeli airstrike on Iran’s consulate in Damascus in April. In retaliation, Iran launched around 300 drones and missiles at Israel, which was aimed at sending a signal rather than causing any serious damage. 

Clashes between Israel and Iran-backed Hezbollah militants based in Lebanon also increased since the Gaza war. 


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