A file image of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi died in the crash near the border with Azerbaijan. Image by Vahid Salemi/AP PHOTO

Misinformation spreads fear, confusion over Iranian president’s helicopter crash

James McManagan May 20, 2024

The pilot of the helicopter carrying Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi was an Israeli Mossad agent named Eli Kopter


False. The claim was started as a joke and has been pushed by satirical social media accounts.

Misinformation ran rife on social media in the hours after the disappearance of the Iranian president’s helicopter.

There were claims of a miraculous escape, historical images were repurposed and there were even reports an Israeli intelligence agent named “Eli Kopter” downed the aircraft.

President Ebrahim Raisi’s helicopter crashed while travelling in heavy fog near the country’s border with Azerbaijan on Sunday (May 19) local time.

The president and his foreign minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, have since been confirmed as dead.

False claims began appearing in the hours after the crash was reported.

Facebook post featuring the false claim
 Wild claims are circulating online in the wake of the fatal helicopter crash. 

Some social media users declared Mossad, Israel’s national intelligence agency, had been involved and that an agent called Eli Kopter had been named as the pilot.

The claim seems to have arisen from a joke, see examples here and here

However, many users started reporting it as fact, including on Telegram and across Facebook.

At the time of writing, neither Iran nor Israel had made any claims of Mossad involvement, nor had they mentioned the name of any agent.

State media reported the helicopter suffered a “hard landing” while travelling in a mountainous region in hazardous weather conditions.

The claim comes as tensions soar between the two nations following an exchange of missile and drone strikes in April.

A Facebook post showing the wrong images
 A Facebook post featuring the old images. 

Other social media users declared the president had survived the crash and had been spotted travelling in his motorcade to the Iranian city of Tabriz.

The image used alongside the claim dates back to 2022.

Among those to make the claim were Simeon Boikov, a pro-Kremlin commentator based in the Russian consulate in Sydney.

Other users posted images of what they said was the crash site. However, the images date back to at least 2020.

The Verdict

The claim the pilot of the helicopter carrying Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi was an Israeli Mossad agent named Eli Kopter is false.

The claim appears to have started as a joke on social media. At the time of writing, there is no suggestion an Israeli agent called Eli Kopter downed the aircraft.

False – The claim is inaccurate.

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