Iran declares five days of mourning for president - as US says he has 'blood on his hands'

Five days of national mourning have been declared by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei after the president and foreign minister died in a helicopter crash.

The deaths of President Ebrahim Raisi and minister Hossein Amirabdollahian were confirmed by officials after rescuers found the chopper's burned wreckage on Monday morning, more than 12 hours after it came down in bad weather.

Iranian media said the crash in Iran's East Azerbaijan province killed eight people in all, including three crew members on the helicopter, which Iran purchased in the early 2000s.

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Funeral processions will be held in several Iranian cities on Tuesday.

The bodies of Mr Raisi and Mr Amirabdollahian will be flown to the central Iranian city of Qom, where the late president studied, and then brought to the capital Tehran, where Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is expected to lead congregational funeral prayers.

Mr Raisi, Iran's eighth president since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, will be buried in the northeastern city of Mashhad on Thursday.

US State department spokesperson Matt Miller said Mr Raisi "has blood on his hands" as the former hardline cleric was "a brutal participant in the repression of the Iranian people for nearly four decades".

Mr Miller said Mr Raisi "was involved in numerous horrific human rights abuses, including playing a key role in the extra judicial killing of thousands of political prisoners in 1988".

"Some of the worst human rights abuses occurred during his tenure as president, especially the human rights abuses against the women and girls of Iran," he added.

The US approach to Iran "will not change" because of Mr Raisi's death, Mr Miller said.

Iran's Mehr news agency reported "all passengers of the helicopter carrying the Iranian president and foreign minister were martyred".

State TV said it had smashed into a mountain. There has been no official word on the cause, but there was thick fog in the area.

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

Drone footage appeared to show the tail of the helicopter and scattered debris.

The search involving civilian and military teams had been hampered by fog and the remoteness of the crash site.

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Mr Raisi, 63, who was seen as a frontrunner to succeed Ayatollah Khamenei, was travelling from Iran's border with Azerbaijan where he had inaugurated a dam with the country's president.

The governor of Iran's East Azerbaijan province, officials, and bodyguards, are also believed to be among those killed.

The helicopter was travelling in a convoy of three aircraft, and Iranian media initially described it as a "hard landing".

Iranian news agency IRNA said Mr Raisi was flying in an American-made Bell 212 helicopter purchased in the early 2000s.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among the world leaders to react to the president's death.

He said he was "deeply saddened and shocked" and offered "heartfelt condolences to his family and the people of Iran".

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani expressed "great sadness and great sorrow" in a statement.

Pakistan leader Shehbaz Sharif, posting on X, offered "deepest condolences and sympathies to the Iranian nation on this terrible loss".

Russian President Vladimir Putin called it a "huge tragedy" and "a difficult, irreparable loss".

Mr Raisi was elected in 2021 in a vote that had the lowest turnout in the Islamic Republic's history.

He previously served in several roles in Iran's judicial system, including as deputy prosecutor. He was sanctioned by the US over the mass execution of political prisoners at the end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988.

His time in charge included major protests over Mahsa Amini - the woman who died after she was arrested for allegedly not wearing her hijab properly.

Iran also took the unprecedented decision in April to launch a drone and missile attack on Israel.

Sky's Middle East correspondent Alistair Bunkall said Mr Raisi was not a universally popular figure and that many inside Iran will celebrate his death.

He said the country's approach to foreign affairs after his death was likely to be "business as usual".