Claim: A group of pictures show the crash site of a helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

Fact: Four of the five images are actually from May 2019 and unrelated to the Raisi helicopter crash.

On 20 May 2024, X (formerly Twitter) user @ShaykhSulaiman shared (archive) four pictures, in a post that has now been deleted, claiming they were from the site of the helicopter crash that killed the president and foreign minister of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi and Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, along with over half a dozen others.


Similarly, posts have shared a fifth image claiming that it shows the site of the Raisi helicopter crash.

Soch Fact Check has previously debunked multiple claims by @ShaykhSulaiman, who describes himself on X as an “Investigative Journalist” based in the UK and who often posts false and misleading content pertaining to Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas.

Raisi, top Iran officials dead in crash

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi, along with Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and other top state officials, died when a helicopter carrying them crashed in Dizmar Protected Area, a region in the country’s northwest, according to a report (archive) by Al Jazeera, which cited Iranian state media.

Other officials aboard the flight who died alongside Raisi included the governor of Iran’s East Azerbaijan province, Malek Rahmati, the representative of Iran’s Supreme Leader to East Azerbaijan, Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Ale-Hashem, and the head of the president’s security team, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Brigadier-General Sardar Seyed Mehdi Mousavi, along with three flight crew members

IRGC Commander-in-Chief Major General Hossein Salami identified the pilots as Colonels Seyed Taher Mostafavi and Mohsen Daryanush, as well as a flight technician named Major Behrouz Ghadimi, according to these reports (archived here and here).

The deaths of all the people inside the ill-fated helicopter were confirmed (archive) by the head of the Iranian Red Crescent Society (IRCS), Pir Hossein Kolivand, who said, “There have been no indications that the people inside the helicopter are alive.”

The late Iranian president was returning from the inauguration of a cooperative dam project, carried out alongside Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. His was the only helicopter among the convoy of three that met the accident, with the other two landing safely.

The helicopter — a US-made Bell 212 — had “slammed into a mountain peak” but “there was no official word on the cause of the crash”, Reuters reported (archive), citing Iranian state media. “Rescue teams fought rain, blizzards, and difficult terrain through the night to reach the wreckage in the early hours of Monday.”

The over 18-hour rescue operations were hampered by “harsh weather conditions over mountainous terrain”, including heavy fog and rain, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) said (archive).

In another report (archive), the IRNA quoted Gholamhossein Esmaili, Iran’s presidential chief of staff who was in one of the three helicopters, as saying Raisi’s aircraft had disappeared suddenly and, when the other two circled back briefly to search for it, they were unable to locate it.

Esmaili added that he, along with other officials, tried contacting Captain Mostafavi, who was leading Raisi’s helicopter, “but the one who took the call was Tabriz Friday prayer leader Mohammad Ali Ale-Hashem, whose situation was not good but said the copter had crashed into a valley”, according to the IRNA. The Khamenei representative was alive for more than an hour but “martyred after several hours”, he said.

Supreme Leader Khamenei announced (archive) “five days of public mourning” and confirmed (archive) that Iranian Vice President Mohammad Mokhber would take over Raisi’s position. The BBC reported (archive) that Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani was appointed as acting foreign minister by the Cabinet.

Iranian state media broadcast the IRCS drone footage of the helicopter wreckage, showing “the crash site on a steep, wooded hillside, with little remaining of the helicopter beyond a blue and white tail”, according to a CNN report (archive). The outlet said it confirmed the “geolocation of the crash site to the mountainous region in Varzeghan, near the village of Uzi” in the East Azerbaijan province.

Fact or Fiction?

A reverse image search of the first photo led us to a report by Verify-sy, a Syrian fact-checking website, which said the picture existed on the Internet as far back as 2019.

We verified this further by reviewing a picture gallery published (archive) in May 2019 on خبرگزاری میزان, or Mizan Online, the website of the Iranian judiciary. The second photograph is an exact match of two of the images shared by @ShaykhSulaiman in their viral X post. 

According to the publication, these photographs show the site of the wreckage of a training plane that crashed near the city of Salman Shahr, a city in Iran’s Mazandaran province. The description on the website states: “یک فروند هواپیما آموزشی که از بیشه کلاه به مقصد تهران در حال پرواز بوده است. حوالی متلقو (سلمان شهر) سقوط کرده که لاشه هواپیما در منطقه کیله کلا عباس آباد پیدا شده است. [A training plane that was flying from Bisheh Kolah to Tehran. It crashed near Mutalaq (Salman Shahr) and the wreckage of the plane was found in Kila Kala Abbas Abad area.”

Interestingly, we also found two of the other pictures from the viral X post in the May 2019 report by Mizan Online by identifying the number “1136” mentioned on the aircraft’s fin — alternatively known as a vertical stabiliser — and other markers in the images.

Only one of the four photos in the viral X post, which carries the logo of “فارس,” or Fars News Agency, appears to be an authentic one. It depicts five men next to the wreckage of Raisi’s helicopter, with one of them standing with his hands on his hips, amid foggy weather conditions. The image was also posted (archive) by Ghoncheh Habibiazad, an Iranian journalist who works with BBC Monitoring, with the caption “Photo published by IRGC-affiliated Fars News Agency allegedly showing the wreckage.”

Other images from the crash site that were posted by The Associated Press here, here, here, here, and here and show similar weather conditions, as well as the rocky terrain, further confirm the authenticity of the picture.

The aircraft carrying the Iranian president had blue paint on its body, indicating that the other three pictures in the viral X post do not show his helicopter. Pictures showing Raisi’s aircraft as it took off, published by AP and Reuters, can be viewed here, here, here, and here.

Additionally, we found that another picture claiming to show the crash site of Raisi’s helicopter is also from May 2019, showing the same accident that was reported on by Mizan Online.

Therefore, Soch Fact Check concludes that four out of the five images circulating on social media reportedly from the crash site of Raisi’s helicopter are, in fact, from 2019.


Soch Fact Check found that one of the viral images was included in a report published by The Independent (archive) that was reproduced on Yahoo! News here (archive). It also appeared in two articles by dpa (Deutsche Presse-Agentur) International that were carried by Yahoo! News here (archive) and here (archive).

The Independent and dpa International credited Reuters and ZUMA Press Wire for the images, respectively.

BBC News Arabic also posted the picture on Facebook here.

The claim with the old images appeared on multiple websites here, here, here, here, here, and here.

The images were posted here, here, here, here, and here on X, here, here, and here on Instagram, here and here on Facebook, and here on Threads. One of them also appeared on an Iranian website called Entekhab.

Conclusion: Four of the five images claiming to show the site of Raisi’s helicopter crash are, in fact, from May 2019.

Background image in cover photo: @raisi_com

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