Iran president, the 'Butcher of Tehran,' confirmed dead after chopper crash

 May 20, 2024

This story was originally published by the WND News Center.

JERUSALEM – Tehran confirmed early Monday morning that Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was killed in a fatal helicopter crash Sunday, in a mountainous region in the country's northwest that abuts its border with Azerbaijan.

Iran's highly influential Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian was also killed in the crash, alongside Mohammad Ali Ale-Hashem, the regime's representative in East Azerbaijan, and Malek Rahmati, the province's governor. Both the pilot and co-pilot were also killed in the crash that occurred in foggy weather.

"President Raisi's helicopter was completely burned in the crash ... unfortunately, all passengers are feared dead," an official told Reuters.

Initially, reports on Sunday had said the president's helicopter had suffered a “hard landing.” Subsequently, state television reported that images from the site showed the helicopter plowed into a mountain peak, and the Fars news agency shared drone images of what it said was the helicopter wreckage, according to the Times of Israel.

Two additional helicopters carrying other dignitaries and leaders also encountered the inclement weather, but managed to land safely at their designated destination.

On Sunday, Turkey offered help in the form of search and rescue teams, as expressions of concern poured in from Iran's allies, including Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Syria, Russia (which sent two advanced aircraft, three helicopters and about 50 professional mountain rescue personnel) and China.

Saudi Arabia, with whom Iran has a somewhat thawed relationship after the Chinese brokered a peace deal signed in March 2023 between the two regional heavyweights, also expressed its unease about the president's fate.

Unsurprisingly, strong support for Raisi also emanated from Iran's regional proxies, in the form of Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen. Pakistan, which as recently as January suffered an Iranian ballistic missile strike on its territory, also sent its condolences and said that along with an official day of mourning, it would fly its flag at half-staff outside official government buildings. Qatar, India and the UAE also expressed their shock at the news.

The wheels of speculation as to who would succeed the so-called “Butcher of Tehran” – due to his proclivity for sending thousands of political prisoners to their death following the cessation of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988 – began before there was even official confirmation of Raisi's death.

Indeed, the crash comes at a delicate time for the Islamic Republic, although it finds itself in a less constricted economic condition following the Biden administration's release of tens of billions of dollars that the previous Trump team had prevented Tehran from getting its hands on.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, 85, who has held onto the reins of power since his accession to the role in 1989, still holds most of the political and decision-making power, and Raisi – who was elected in 2021 on a hardline ticket – was viewed as a strong contender to replace the ailing cleric.

For at least the next 50 days, First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber will fill the void that Raisi's death has created.

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