Hopes fade for Iranian president as helicopter wreckage found

World

Hopes are fading that Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi will be found alive as rescue teams locate the wreckage of the helicopter he was travelling in.

“We can see the wreckage and the situation does not look good,” the head of Iran’s Red Crescent, Pir Hossein Kolivand, told Iranian state TV.

He revealed that as the sun rose on Monday morning, rescuers saw the helicopter from a distance of 1.25 miles in East Azerbaijan province.

State TV has reported there has been “no sign of life” detected at the crash site.

Mr Raisi and foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian who was travelling with him had been missing for more than 12 hours at the point the wreckage was located.

Earlier, an official speaking on condition of anonymity, said the lives of Mr Raisi and Mr Amirabdollahian were “at risk following the helicopter crash”, which happened as they were returning from a visit to the border with Azerbaijan in Iran’s northwest.

Iran latest: Rescuers search for President Ebrahim Raisi after crash

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It was also reported that a Turkish drone had identified a source of heat suspected to be the helicopter’s wreckage and had shared the coordinates of the possible crash site with authorities in Tehran, Anadolu news agency said on X.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei sought to reassure the nation, saying there would be no disruption to state affairs.

State media blamed the crash on bad weather and said it was complicating rescue efforts.

Iranian TV showed the president on board the helicopter
Image:
Iranian TV showed the president on board the helicopter

News agency IRNA said Mr Raisi was flying in an American-made Bell 212 helicopter.

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 the president across the country.

State media says this is the last-known picture of the helicopter carrying the president. Pic: IRNA
Image:
State media says this is the last-known picture of the helicopter carrying the president. Pic: IRNA

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,” a regional army commander said.

“The area has very cold, rainy, and foggy weather conditions. The rain is gradually turning into snow.”

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Iran president missing after crash

Read more:
Who is Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi?
The ‘butcher of Tehran’ has a fearsome reputation – and many will be fearing instability

President Raisi (left) had been in Azerbaijan to inaugurate a dam alongside the country's leader. Pic: IRNA
Image:
President Raisi (left) had been in Azerbaijan to inaugurate a dam alongside the country’s leader. Pic: IRNA

Neighbouring countries expressed concern and offered assistance in any rescue. The White House said Joe Biden had been briefed on reports about the crash.

Turkey said it had assigned a drone, a helicopter, vehicles and a rescue team after a request by Iranian authorities.

The European Union offered emergency satellite mapping technology.

Mr Raisi, 63, a hardliner and former head of the judiciary, is considered the protege of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

There are suggestions he could one day replace the 85-year-old.

President Raisi was elected in 2021 in a vote that had the lowest turnout in the Islamic republic’s history.

The president is sanctioned by the US over the mass execution of political prisoners at the end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988.

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