update deskMiddle East

Iranian president, foreign minister killed in helicopter crash

Jerusalem was not involved in the deaths of Ebrahim Raisi and Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, an Israeli official said.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (right) meets with Palestinian terrorist leaders in Damascus, May 4, 2023. Source: Twitter.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (right) meets with Palestinian terrorist leaders in Damascus, May 4, 2023. Source: Twitter.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was killed in a helicopter crash in the country’s northwestern East Azerbaijan province on Sunday, Iranian state media confirmed on Monday morning.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Mohammad Ali Ale-Hashem, the regime’s representative in East Azerbaijan and Malek Rahmati, the province’s governor, were also killed, along with the pilot and co-pilot.

António Guterres
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres (right) meets with Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran, in New York, April 18, 2024 Credit: Evan Schneider/U.N. Photo.

They were returning from an inauguration ceremony for a dam built jointly by Iran and Azerbaijan on the Aras River.

An Israeli official told Reuters that the Jewish state was not involved in the incident, saying that “it wasn’t us.” There was no official reaction from Jerusalem.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei confirmed on Monday that First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber would temporarily take charge of the executive branch and has up to 50 days to hold elections, Tehran’s official IRNA reported.

Khamenei also declared five days of national mourning.

The Iranian government appointed Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani as acting foreign minister.

Tehran’s announcement of the deaths came 16 hours after contact was lost with the helicopter. The Iranian Red Crescent reported after some 14 hours of searching that the helicopter’s remains had been located.

IRNA said rescuers arrived 30 minutes after the incident was reported and started their search on steep mountainsides during a snowstorm.

An Iranian official told Reuters that “President Raisi’s helicopter was completely burned in the crash. … Unfortunately, all passengers are feared dead.”

According to reports, Raisi’s convoy included three helicopters; the two other choppers arrived safely at their destination. The weather was foggy at the time of the crash.

Raisi, known as the “Butcher of Tehran” for his role in the 1988 execution 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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