update deskMiddle East

Helicopter carrying Iranian president Raisi, foreign minister missing

An Iranian official said the lives of Ebrahim Raisi and Hossein Amir-Abdollahian were "at risk" following a crash.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, Sept. 18, 2023. Credit: Lev Radin/Shutterstock.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, Sept. 18, 2023. Credit: Lev Radin/Shutterstock.

Iranian authorities have launched a search after a helicopter carrying its president, Ebrahim Raisi, went missing in the country’s northwestern East Azerbaijan province, the Tasnim News Agency reported on Sunday.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and Mohammad Ali Ale-Hashem, the regime’s representative in East Azerbaijan, were reportedly also in the helicopter, which is believed to have crashed. They reportedly were returning from an inauguration ceremony for a dam built jointly by Iran and Azerbaijan on the Aras River.

An Iranian official told the Reuters press agency that the lives of Raisi and Amir-Abdollahian were believed to be “at risk” following a crash.

“We are still hopeful, but information coming from the crash site is very concerning,” the anonymous official stated.

According to reports, Raisi’s convoy included three helicopters; the two other choppers arrived safely at their destination.

The Tasnim News Agency cited local sources as saying that the condition of the helicopter carrying Raisi and Amir-Abdollahian was still unknown due to foggy weather.

Iran’s official IRNA news outlet said rescuers arrived 30 minutes after the incident was reported and had started their search.

Iranian Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi confirmed on state-run television that Raisi’s chopper made a “hard landing” and that rescue forces were having a hard time reaching the presumed crash site.

Raisi, known as the “butcher of Tehran” after being involved in the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners, was elected president in 2021. The hardline leader has repeatedly called for the destruction of the State of Israel.

He succeeded Hassan Rouhani, who served eight years in the office—from 2013 to 2021.

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