Iranian state-run television has confirmed the deaths of President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian following a helicopter crash in the mountainous East Azerbaijan province.

Press TV and other state media outlets, including Mehr and Tasnim news agencies, as well as Reuters, reported the deaths of Raisi and Amir-Abdollahian, although no immediate cause for the crash has been provided. The helicopter went down in a rugged area known for its challenging terrain, complicating rescue efforts.

President Raisi was returning from a diplomatic trip to Azerbaijan, where he and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev had inaugurated a dam, the third collaborative project on the Aras River. This visit came despite ongoing tensions between the two countries, heightened by a 2023 gun attack on Azerbaijan’s embassy in Tehran and Azerbaijan’s ties with Israel.

The helicopter carried several other officials, including the governor of East Azerbaijan province, the representative of the Leader of the Islamic Revolution to East Azerbaijan province, and bodyguards, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. The full extent of casualties among these passengers has yet to be detailed.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has reassured the nation that no disruption will occur in Iran’s state affairs.

Iran is now observing a period of mourning.

According to state media, the helicopter was found on Sunday evening, with at least one passenger and one crew member reportedly in contact with rescuers. However, conflicting reports soon emerged. The Iranian Red Crescent later contradicted the initial announcement, stating that no helicopter had yet been located.

By early Monday, the situation took another turn when Turkey’s Anadolu news agency reported that a Turkish drone had identified a “source of heat suspected to be wreckage of the helicopter carrying Iranian President Raisi.” This information led Iranian state TV to announce that rescue teams were being dispatched to the site indicated by the drone.

The crash site, a fog-covered and rugged terrain, has presented significant challenges for the rescue teams. The crash occurred approximately 375 miles (600 km) northwest of Tehran as the president was traveling in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province.

State media has blamed bad weather for the crash, with heavy fog, rain, and mud significantly complicating rescue operations. The Iranian Red Crescent team has been broadcasting footage of their efforts, showing them navigating through thick fog. IRNA, Iran’s state news agency, also aired live images of worshippers in Mashhad reciting prayers for the president and other passengers’ safety.

A rescue helicopter attempted to reach the crash site but was unable to land due to the heavy mist. Despite these difficulties, over 40 rescue teams, search dogs, and drones have been deployed to the area, which has been described by IRNA as a “forest” and shown on state TV with images of SUVs navigating a wooded area.

Iran’s Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi confirmed on state TV that the helicopter had to perform a hard landing due to adverse weather conditions and fog.

Iran’s fleet of helicopters, including the one involved in this incident, faces maintenance challenges due to international sanctions. Much of the country’s military air fleet dates back to before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, making maintenance and reliability significant issues.