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Aerial attack, possible cause of Hammarskjöld crash

Experts investigating the 1961 plane crash that killed former UN Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjöld, have submitted a report to the United Nations stating they have found significant new information which could indicate aerial attack or interference as a possible cause of the crash.

The panel of experts was tasked in March by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, to examine evidence pertaining to the crash on 18 September 1961, in which Hammarskjöld was one of the 16 to die. The 56-year-old Swedish diplomat was en route to negotiate a cease-fire for the mining-rich Katanga Province when his Douglas DC-6 airliner crashed near Ndola, Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia).

The Panel described the new information as “having moderate probative value, sufficient to further pursue aerial attack or other interference as a hypothesis of the possible cause of the crash.” It will likely provoke another investigation.

Cause of crash

The information included eyewitness accounts of more than one jet aircraft in the air at the time of the crash, and that Hammarskjöld’s plane was on fire before it hit the ground. There was also a possibility that communications sent from the CX-52 cryptographic machine used by Dag Hammarskjöld were intercepted, the report stated.

The experts also found new information which upholds the original 1961 post-mortem examination of the 16 passengers on board SE-BDY.

The Panel, consisting of Mohamed Chande Othman of Tanzania, Kerryn Macaulay of Australia and Henrik Larsen of Denmark, also examined and assessed the value of new information relating to the various other hypotheses of the cause of the crash.

Theories relating to a possible hijacking or sabotage were found by the panel to have “nil or weak probative value,” yet new information was found relating to a hypothesis involving “crew fatigue.”

Investigations are likely to continue, with Ban Ki-moon remarking that “a further inquiry or investigation would be necessary to finally establish the facts.”

The Secretary-General is now reaching out to UN Member States to declassify and make available specific information, which may have been kept under wraps since the 1960s, relating to the event.

Several Member States, including the United Kingdom and the US, have withheld documents from the experts which could prove key in determining the cause of the crash. In a statement introducing the report, the Secretary General noted that “there is a possibility that unreleased classified material relating to the crash of SE-BDY may still be available.”

- IPS

 

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