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Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi called ‘the Butcher of Tehran’ killed in helicopter crash

Hardliner Ebrahim Raisi was elected President of Iran in 2021 (Picture: Reuters/AFP)

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has been found dead at the site of a helicopter crash.

Raisi, 63, had been on an official visit to northwestern Iran when his helicopter came down in a forested area in the mountains just south of Iran’s border with Azerbaijan on Sunday afternoon.

Of his convoy of three Bell 212 helicopters – with a delegation of ministers on board – the two other aircraft reached their destination.

Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, 60, has also been confirmed dead.

Iran’s government said this morning it will operate ‘without disruption’ following President Raisi’s death.

Mohammad Mokhber, who served as vice president under Raisi, will serve as interim president while Ali Bagheri will take over the foreign ministry.

A three-person panel, composed of Mokhber, the speaker of parliament, and the head of the judiciary, will organise a snap presidential election within 50 days.

The rescue effort was impeded by thick fog in the mountainous region, and Iranian state media confirmed Raisi’s death in the early hours of Monday morning.

Drone video shows crash site of helicopter that carried Iran president

Those missing also include East Azerbaijan governor Malek Rahmati and Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Ale-Hashem, representative of the Iranian Supreme Leader to East Azerbaijan.

On Raisi’s official Instagram account, a post urged the public to ‘offer prayers for the health of the president and his companions’.

The Mehr News Agency, a semi-official state news agency, said in a Telegram update that the helicopter crashed due to bad weather conditions.

With rain and freezing temperatures forecast well into the night, the inclement weather made the search effort very difficult for the 240 Red Crescent rescuers.

Rainstorms made driving to the site next to impossible due to mud, while the fog gave pilots little visibility. Search-and-rescue workers were filmed combing the green hills on foot.

A hardline conservative, President Raisi had just visited the neighbouring country of Azerbaijan, where he appeared with his counterpart Ilham Aliyev for the inauguration of a dam.

Aliyev wrote on X: ‘Today, after bidding a friendly farewell to the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, we were profoundly troubled by the news of a helicopter carrying the top delegation crash-landing in Iran.’

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, added in remarks aired on state TV yesterday: ‘We hope that benevolent God returns our dear and honourable president and all with him to the arms of the people.

‘Everyone must pray for the health of these public servants. The people of Iran must not be anxious or worried.’

Raisi was elected president in 2021 after eight years of reformist leadership in Iran.

Raisi, who was nicknamed the Butcher of Tehran, helped oversee the mass executions of thousands in 1988 and later led the country as it enriched uranium near weapons-grade levels and launched a major drone-and-missile attack on Israel.

A longtime jurist and former chief justice, Raisi had been tipped as the most likely person to succeed Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

A cleric first, Raisi once kissed the Quran before the United Nations and spoke more like a preacher than a statesman when addressing the world.

Raisi’s presidency was plagued with protests against deteriorating economic conditions and the oppression of women, often resulting in violent crackdowns on the opposition and members of the public.

Born in Mashhad on December 14, 1960, Mr Raisi was born into a family that traces its lineage to Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, marked by the black turban he would later wear.

His father died when he was five. He would go onto the seminary in the Shiite holy city of Qom and later would describe himself as an ayatollah, a high-ranking Shiite cleric.

He is survived by his wife and two daughters.

Credit: metro


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