Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi Goes Missing after Helicopter Crash as Rescuers Frantically Try to Reach Crash Site Amid Inclement Weather

This incident follows Iran's massive drone-and-missile attack on Israel amid the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was involved in a helicopter crash just hours after posing for photos with Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev, and rescuers are frantically trying to reach the crash site.

The aircraft was traveling in Iran's East Azerbaijan province near Jolfa, about 375 miles northwest of Tehran, when it suffered a "hard landing," according to Iranian state television. Rescuers have been trying to reach the crash site but operations are being hampered by poor weather conditions, including heavy rain, fog, and some wind. According to Fouad Izadi, a professor of world studies at the University of Tehran, the rescue teams have been unable to contact those on the helicopter.

Raisi's Fate Unknown

Ebrahim Raisi, Iran president-elect
Ebrahim Raisi Wikimedia Commons

The helicopter was one of a convoy of three, and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, Friday prayer Imam Seyyed Mohammad-Ali Al-Hashem, and other high-ranking officials were also reportedly on board with the president.

This incident follows Iran's massive drone-and-missile attack on Israel amid the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

"Some of the president's companions on this helicopter were able to communicate with Central Headquarters, raising hopes that the incident could have ended without casualties," Iranian news agency Tasnim reported.

"Seyyed Mohammad-Ali Al-Hashem, Tabriz's Friday Prayer Imam, and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian were also reportedly on the helicopter with the president."

There was no immediate elaboration on what happened to the helicopter or what led to the incident.

One local government official used the word "crash" to describe the incident, but he acknowledged to an Iranian newspaper that he had yet to reach the site himself.

State TV aired images of SUVs racing through a wooded area.

A rescue helicopter attempted to reach the area where authorities believe Raisi's helicopter was, but it couldn't land due to the heavy mist, emergency services spokesman Babak Yektaparast said.

Unclear Picture With No Elaborate Information

Ebrahim Raisi, Iran president-elect
Ebrahim Raisi Wikimedia Commons

There have not been any updates on Raisi's condition. "The esteemed president and company were on their way back aboard some helicopters and one of the helicopters was forced to make a hard landing due to the bad weather and fog," Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi said in comments aired on state TV.

"Various rescue teams are on their way to the region but because of the poor weather and fogginess it might take time for them to reach the helicopter."

He added: "The region is a bit (rugged) and it's difficult to make contact. We are waiting for rescue teams to reach the landing site and give us more information."

Some began urging the public to pray for Raisi and the others on board as rescue crews sped through a misty, rural forest where his helicopter was believed to be.

Hard-liners called on the public to pray for him, and state TV later aired images of the faithful praying at Imam Reza Shrine in the city of Mashhad, one of Shiite Islam's holiest sites.

Iran operates a variety of helicopters, but international sanctions make it difficult to obtain parts for them. Its military air fleet largely dates back to before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Raisi, 63, is a hard-liner who formerly led the country's judiciary.

He is viewed as a protégé of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and some analysts have suggested he could replace the 85-year-old leader after his death or resignation from the role.

Raisi won Iran's 2021 presidential election, a vote that saw the lowest turnout in the Islamic Republic's history.

He is sanctioned by the U.S., in part over his involvement in the mass execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988 at the end of the Iran-Iraq war.