Iranian President Ebrahim Raïssi killed in a helicopter accident, numerous international reactions

by Parisa Hafezi and Yomna Ehab

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi died in a helicopter crash on Sunday in thick fog in a mountainous area as he returned from a trip near the border with Azerbaijan, it was announced on Monday the Iranian authorities.

All passengers on the plane, including the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hossein Amirabdollahian, died in the accident.

The first vice president, Mohammad Mokhber, will take over as interim president, declared the supreme leader of the Iranian revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, quoted by the official news agency the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA). ).

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“I announce five days of public mourning and offer my condolences to the dear people of Iran,” Ali Khamenei said in a statement.

Under the Constitution, a council composed of the interim president, the speaker of Parliament and the head of the judiciary will have to organize the election of a new president within a maximum period of 50 days.

The helicopter completely burned in the accident, an Iranian representative told Reuters earlier, after rescue teams had just located the aircraft after searching throughout the night on Sunday.

The official press in Tehran indicated that the accident was caused by bad weather conditions, which also complicated search efforts.

Iranian public television broadcast images of rescuers, equipped with flashlights and GPS radars, crossing on foot a mountainous area plunged into total darkness and swept by a blizzard.

Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani was appointed acting foreign minister following the death of Hossein Amirabdollahian, IRNA reported.

This accident occurs in a delicate context in Iran, where the population’s anger is growing towards a series of political, social and economic crises.

Tehran also faces increased international pressure regarding the development of its nuclear program and the strengthening of its military ties with Russia on the sidelines of the war in Ukraine.

As of Sunday, the supreme leader of the Iranian revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on major political decisions, sought to reassure Iranians by declaring that the continuity of state affairs would not be disrupted.


Since his arrival at the presidency in 2021, Ebrahim Raïssi, 63, has ordered a strengthening of morality laws and bloodily repressed the vast anti-government demonstrations that resulted in particular from these measures. He has also adopted a rigid stance in negotiations with world powers intended to revive the 2015 agreement governing Iranian nuclear activities.

Messages of condolences have poured in from Iran’s neighbors and regional allies, including the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Jordan, Iraq and Pakistan.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called Ebrahim Raisi a “true friend of Russia”, while Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “deeply shocked and saddened”.

For their part, the European Union and Japan expressed their condolences.

Hamas, a Palestinian Islamist group backed by Iran, which is fighting Israeli forces in Gaza with the support of Tehran, issued a statement expressing sympathy with the Iranian people for “this immense loss.”

Lebanese Hezbollah and Yemen’s Houthi rebels, also backed by Iran, also issued statements praising the late president.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran, an opposition group in exile, described his death as a “monumental and irreparable strategic blow” to Ali Khamenei and the regime.

In the region, tensions have been high since the attack by Palestinian Hamas on October 7 in Israel, which responded by launching a total siege of the Gaza Strip, now in its eighth month. Tehran-aligned groups have since carried out regional attacks in support of the Palestinians.

Ebrahim Raïssi, “tough” of the Iranian theocratic regime, was considered by many observers as one of the favorites to succeed Ali Khamenei, 85 years old.

The Iranian president went to the border with Azerbaijan on Sunday for the inauguration of the Qiz-Qalaisi dam, a joint project with Baku.

(Parisa Hafezi in Dubai and Yomma Ehab in Cairo, with Stephen Coates and Alex Richardson, French version Jean Terzian and Kate Entringer)

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