Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi waves upon arriving at Bandaranaike International Airport in Katunayake, Sri Lanka on April 24, 2024.

(Photo: Ishara S.Kodikara/AFP via Getty Images)

Iranian President Missing After Helicopter Crash

President Ebrahim Raisi had been traveling in Iran's mountainous East Azerbaijan province.

This is a developing story... Check back for possible updates...

Update (3:30 pm ET):

Iranian state TV reported that Raisi's helicopter had been found. There was no update on the condition of those aboard.


Dozens of search teams were deployed to Iran's mountainous East Azerbaijan province on Sunday to search for a helicopter that had been carrying the country's president, Ebrahim Raisi, as well as Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, after the aircraft reportedly experienced a "hard landing."

State news agency IRNA and Iran's mission to the United Nations reported that inclement weather, including rain and fog, had prevented the teams from finding the crash site after almost five hours of searching.

The helicopter had also been carrying East Azerbaijan province Gov. Malek Rahmati and Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Ale-Hashem, representative of the Iranian supreme leader to East Azerbaijan. Raisi had been in the province on an official visit to inaugurate a dam on the Iran-Azerbaijan border.

The term "crash" was used by one government official speaking to an Iranian newspaper, but details of the severity of the hard landing are not yet known.

The incident comes just over a month after Iran launched a drone-and-missile attack against Israel in retaliation for Israel's deadly bombing of the Iranian consulate in Syria.

Raisi, who was elected in 2021, has been sanctioned by the U.S. for his role in executing thousands of political prisoners in 1988 at the end of the Iran-Iraq War.

In the event of the president's death, power would be transferred to the first vice president, the conservative Mohammad Mokhber. An election would then be called within six months.

Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, said "chaotic times in Iran" may be ahead if elections are called.

"And that's not even taking into account if credible evidence emerges that there was foul play involved in the crash," said Parsi.

"The population has by and large lost faith in the idea that change can come through the ballot box," said Parsi. "Real alternatives to Iran's hardliners have simply not been allowed to stand for office in the in the last few elections. At the same time, those alternatives have in the eyes of the majority of the population lost credibility anyways, due to the failure to deliver change."

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