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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi dies after helicopter crash

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has died after a helicopter crash in northwest Iran, several news agencies reported, citing Iranian state media.

Interior Minister Ahmed Vahidi told IRNA, Iran’s official news agency, that a helicopter carrying Raisi and other senior Iranian officials was forced to make a “hard landing” on Sunday, without providing further details. details.

Thick fog and bad weather – and ultimately nighttime – prevented emergency responders from immediately reaching the scene, leading to several hours of uncertainty over the president’s status. It is still unclear what caused the accident.

Iran’s foreign minister, the governor of Iran’s East Azerbaijan province and other officials were also on board the helicopter. The high-level Iranian delegation was returning from a ceremony marking the opening of a dam near the Azerbaijani border. IRNA reported that two other helicopters carrying ministers and other officials who attended the ceremony reached their destination safely.

Iranian Vice President Mohammad Mokhber is the next presidential candidate. According to Al Jazeera, Mokhber will take over until new elections can be held.

Who was Ebrahim Raïssi?

Iran elected Raisi, 63, in 2021 after an election that saw the lowest turnout in the country’s history, according to the Associated Press.

Raisi is considered an “extremist” and a “protege” of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Some analysts have suggested that Raisi could even replace Kahmenei after his death or resignation, according to the Associated Press.

Raisi has led Iran through heightened tensions in the region, including the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

“Our heart is with the Iranian nation as a friend and brother,” Hamas said in a statement on Sunday, according to the official Iranian news agency.

In April, Iran launched a barrage of missiles toward Israel in an unprecedented direct attack. Most of these attacks were intercepted and ultimately caused little damage. This was a response to the Israeli attack on an Iranian consulate in Damascus on April 1, which killed several high-level Iranian commanders.

The United States sanctioned Raisi in 2019 for human rights violations for his role in the “death commission” that ordered the execution of thousands of political prisoners in the late 1980s.

At that time, Iran subjected thousands of political dissidents to detention centers across the country, executing many of them on the orders of Iran’s Supreme Leader, the U.S. Institute of Peace reported.

Raïssi was allegedly one of four members of the commission who subjected many of these prisoners to “torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” the report said.

Raisi also supplied weapons to Russia during its invasion of Ukraine. Several reports of attacks in kyiv have indicated the presence of Iranian-made “Shahed” drones used by Russian forces.

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