Iranian president Raisi feared dead in helicopter crash

A helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, the foreign minister, and other officials crashed in a mountainous area of ​​northwestern Iran on Sunday, prompting a large-scale rescue operation in a fog-shrouded forest. The public is urged to pray for their safety. As of Monday morning, 12 hours after the suspected crash, Raisi and the other passengers were still missing. Turkish drone footage showed the helicopter going down the mountain and rescuers rushing to the crash site.

“We can see the wreckage and the situation does not look good,” the head of Iran’s Red Crescent, Pir Hossein Kolivand, told state TV. Raisi, 63, was elected president in 2021, and since taking office has ordered a tightening of morality laws, overseen a bloody crackdown on anti-government protests and pushed hard in nuclear talks with world powers.

A Turkish drone identified a source of heat suspected to be the helicopter’s wreckage and had shared the coordinates of the possible crash site with Iranian authorities, Anadolu news agency said earlier on X.

State news agency IRNA said Raisi was flying in a US-made Bell 212 helicopter.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds ultimate power with a final say on foreign policy and Iran’s nuclear program, sought to reassure Iranians, saying there would be no disruption to state affairs. The chief of staff of Iran’s army ordered all resources of the army and the elite Revolutionary Guards to be put to use in search and rescue operations.

Earlier, the national broadcaster had stopped all regular programming to show prayers being held for Raisi across the country. In the early hours of Monday, it showed a rescue team, wearing bright jackets and head torches, huddled around a GPS device as they searched a pitch-black mountainside on foot in a blizzard.

“We are thoroughly searching every inch of the general area of the crash,” state media quoted a regional army commander as saying. “The area has very cold, rainy and foggy weather conditions. The rain is gradually turning into snow.”

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