Iran's President Raisi buried at holy shrine in home city of Mashhad

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei earlier led funeral prayers in Tehran after fatal helicopter crash

Mourners carry the coffin of late Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, during his burial ceremony in Mashhad, Iran. Reuters
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Iran's president Ebrahim Raisi was buried at the holiest Shiite shrine in the country on Thursday, days after a helicopter crash killed him along with the country's foreign minister and six others.

Mr Raisi's body was lowered into a tomb at the Imam Reza Shrine in the city of Mashhad, where Shiite Islam’s eighth imam is buried and millions of pilgrims visit each year.

Iran's Tasnim news agency reported that three million people attended the funeral.

Images showed thousands of people dressed in black around the shrine under its golden dome, wailing and beating their chests in sorrow, a common sign of mourning in Shiite ceremonies.

The president, 63, and foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, 60, died in the helicopter crash near the border with Azerbaijan. Large crowds were seen at Mashhad's Shahid Mashinejad Airport on Thursday afternoon as the president's body arrived from Birjand, in south Khorasan province, where his coffin was paraded through streets packed with mourners.

Five hundred mosques had been prepared to welcome people across Mashhad, according to state media.

Thousands turned out in Tehran on Wednesday for a funeral procession attended by foreign representatives and leaders of Iran-backed militant groups, including Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh, seen for the first time since the International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor Karim Khan said he would seek his arrest.

People surrounded the funeral cortege as it moved slowly through streets lined with photos of the eight people killed in the crash, with large banners depicting Mr Raisi hung across the city.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will lead a commemoration ceremony for the dead on Saturday, the state-run Irna news agency announced on Thursday afternoon.

A Foreign Ministry ceremony for Mr Amirabdollahian began in Tehran's Mashakh Square on Thursday morning after his body was flown back from Mashhad, where mourners surrounded his coffin at Imam Reza Ali shrine.

He was later buried at the Shah Abdol Azim shrine near Tehran, with interim President Mohammad Mokhber in attendance.

The daughter of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani, who was killed in a US air strike in 2020, gave her father's ring to be buried next to the late foreign minister, Iran International reported.

State media referred to Mr Amirabdollahian, who was close to Maj Gen Suleimani and Iran-backed militant groups, as a “resistance diplomat”.

While thousands of regime supporters turned out for funeral ceremonies in Tehran, Tabriz and Qom, the reaction from the general public has reflected popular opposition to the hardline president. He oversaw the fierce crackdown on anti-regime protesters and critics, in addition to the execution of political prisoners in the 1980s.

Authorities warned families of slain protesters against celebrating the crash, Farsi-language outlets reported, and relatives and journalists have been arrested for reporting and posting about his death.

Some have said Mr Raisi should have faced international courts for rights violations which escalated during his time in office.

Images published by Iranian media on Wednesday showed officials in Mashhad preparing for the final day of funeral rites.

Others showed mourners surrounding Mr Amirabdollahian's coffin at Tehran's Mehrabad Airport after it was flown back from Mashhad.

Mr Khamenei led prayers over the remains at Tehran University on Wednesday and was filmed embracing Mr Raisi's grandsons near the coffin.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the UAE's Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan were among several foreign representatives who travelled to Tehran, meeting Iranian leaders to express their condolences.

Iranian state media published conflicting reports of 40 to 90 foreign delegations visiting the capital.

Diplomatic relations between Tehran and Riyadh were revived last March following China-brokered negotiations, which also involved Iraq, Jordan and Oman. Iranian diplomats referenced the renewed relationship in tributes paid to Mr Amirabdollahian in state media.

Syrian President Bashar Al Assad said he would travel to Tehran in the wake of Mr Raisi's death, while memorial ceremonies were held at the Iranian embassy in Damascus – the site of a deadly Israeli air strike in April.

Tehran has launched an investigation into Sunday's crash, which took place in heavy fog in north-western Iran.

The officials, travelling on the second of three helicopters in a presidential convoy, were returning from a dam inauguration ceremony on the border with Azerbaijan when communication with their helicopter was lost.

Mohammed Ali Ale Hashem, Mr Khamenei's representative to East Azerbaijan province and an imam in Tabriz, was the only person to survive the crash, but he died a few hours later, officials said.

As ceremonies concluded in Tehran, Hezbollah released old photos of Mr Raisi visiting the militant group in Lebanon for the first time. The images, also carried on Iranian state media, showed the president and his entourage meeting militants next to a rocket launcher.

Yemen's Houthi rebels and Hamas also issued statements paying tribute to Mr Raisi.

The war in Gaza has featured throughout the four days of mourning, with Mr Haniyeh speaking of Mr Raisi's “dedication” to the Palestinian cause in a speech made during funeral ceremonies in Tehran.

Palestinian flags were also flown among the crowd in Tabriz.

On Thursday, leaders of the IRGC hosted several allied militant groups, including Hamas and other Palestinian groups, in Tehran.

IRGC chief and Quds Force commander Esmail Qaani met them to discuss Gaza and “the role of the Resistance Front”, Iranian media reported.

Updated: May 23, 2024, 4:35 PM