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Plane crash that killed UN chief Dag Hammarskjold may have been shot down

  • Published at 08:09 pm September 26th, 2017
Plane crash that killed UN chief Dag Hammarskjold may have been shot down

A UN report into the death of its former secretary general Dag Hammarskjold in a 1961 plane crash in central Africa has found that there is a “significant amount of evidence” that his flight was brought down by another aircraft.

The report, delivered to the current secretary general, Antonio Guterres, last month, took into account previously undisclosed information provided by the US, UK, Belgian, Canadian and German governments.

Its author, Mohamed Chande Othman, a former Tanzanian chief justice, found that the US and UK governments had intercepted radio traffic in the area at the time and suggested that the 56-year-old mystery could be solved if the contents of those classified recordings were produced.

“I am indebted for the assistance that I received, which uncovered a large amount of valuable new information,” Othman said in an executive summary of his report, seen by the Guardian. “I can confidently state that the deeper we have gone into the searches, the more relevant information has been found.”

Dag Hammarskjold was on a mission to try to broker peace in Congo when he died in 1961.

Hammarskjold, a Swedish diplomat who became the UN secretary general in 1953, was on a mission in September 1961 to try to broker peace in Congo, where the Katanga region had staged a rebellion, backed by mining interests and European mercenaries, against the newly independent government in Kinshasa.

His plane, a Douglas DC-6, was on the way from Kinshasa to the town of Ndola in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), where the British colonial authorities were due to host talks with the Katanga rebels. It was approaching the airstrip at about midnight on September 17 when it crashed, killing Hammarskjold and 15 others on board.

Two inquiries run by the British pointed to pilot error as the cause, while a UN commission in 1962 reached an open verdict. In recent years, independent research by Goran Bjorkdahl, a Swedish aid worker, and Susan Williams, a senior fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies in London and author of a 2011 book Who Killed Hammarskjold?, persuaded the UN to reopen the case.

A panel convened in 2015 found there was enough new material to warrant the appointment of an “eminent person” to assess it. Othman was given the job in February this year.

  Source: The Guardian