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President Raisi dead in chopper crash. Why it's a blow to Iran's hardliners

A helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollhian and others crashed on Sunday

Ebrahim Raisi, Modi

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the 15th BRICS summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, 24 August 2023. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons (PIB)

Bhaswar Kumar New Delhi

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There was no sign of life seen at the crash site of a helicopter that was carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and others, the country's state television said on Monday. While there has been no official confirmation yet, President Raisi's death would be a blow to Iran's hardliners.

Iran's semi-official Mehr News Agency on Monday reported that the Iranian president, foreign minister and other occupants of the helicopter have been "martyred".

The helicopter carrying Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollhian and others crashed on Sunday.


On Monday morning, rescuers identified the crashed helicopter from a distance of some 2 kilometres, the head of the Iranian Red Crescent Society told state media. By that time, the officials onboard had been missing for over 12 hours.

President Ebrahim Raisi, 63, was widely reported to be a hard-liner within Iran's political setup and theocracy. He was also seen as a protégé to Iran's 85-year-old supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who ultimately runs the Islamic Republic. As such, Raisi was also reported to be a potential successor for Khamenei's position within Iran's Shiite theocracy.

Before Sunday's crash, Raisi was already facing sanctions from the United States (US) and other countries due to his involvement in the mass execution of prisoners in 1988, with international rights groups estimating that as many as 5,000 people were executed during that period. In 2019, mentioning his involvement in the 1988 executions, the US Treasury sanctioned Raisi.  

After heading Iran's judiciary, Raisi ran unsuccessfully for president in 2017 against Hassan Rouhani, a relatively moderate cleric. During his time as president, Rouhani had reached Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
In 2021, Raisi ran for president again. However, this time, all of his prominent opponents were reportedly barred from running under Iran's vetting system.

Raisi secured about 62 per cent of the 28.9 million votes cast in that election, which was reportedly the lowest turnout by percentage in Iran's history as millions of Iranians stayed home.

Under Raisi as president, Iran undertook the enrichment of uranium up to near-weapons-grade levels, attacked Israel in a massive drone and missile assault in April in response to a suspected Israeli attack that killed Iranian generals in Syria, and carried out a months-long security crackdown that killed over 500 and saw more than 22,000 detained in the aftermath of the nationwide protests triggered by the 2022 death of Mahsa Amini.  

(With inputs from the Associated Press)   

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First Published: May 20 2024 | 10:42 AM IST

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