Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi

Iranians mourn dead President Ebrahim Raisi 

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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and the country’s foreign minister were found dead Monday hours after their helicopter crashed in fog, leaving the Islamic Republic without two key leaders as extraordinary tensions grip the wider Middle East.

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Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say in the Shiite theocracy, quickly named a little-known vice president as caretaker and insisted the government was in control, but the deaths mark yet another blow to a country beset by pressures both at home and abroad.

Iran has offered no cause for the crash nor suggested sabotage brought down the helicopter, which fell in mountainous terrain in a sudden, intense fog.

In Tehran, Iran’s capital, businesses were open and children attended school Monday. However, there was a noticeable presence of both uniformed and plainclothes security forces.

Later in the day, hundreds of mourners crowded into downtown Vali-e-Asr square holding posters of Raisi and waving Palestinian flags. Some men clutched prayer beads and were visibly crying. Women wearing black chadors gathered together holding photos of the dead leader.

“We were shocked that we lost such a character, a character that made Iran proud, and humiliated the enemies,” said Mohammad Beheshti, 36.

The crash comes as the Israel-Hamas war roils the region. Iran-backed Hamas led the attack that started the conflict, and Hezbollah, also supported by Tehran, has fired rockets at Israel. Last month, Iran launched its own unprecedented drone-and-missile attack on Israel.

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