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UNITED NATIONS

Investigators urge UN to reopen Hammarskjold death probe

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 September, 2013, 2:26am

Investigators yesterday called on the United Nations to reopen a probe into the 1961 death of UN secretary general Dag Hammarskjold, citing "persuasive evidence" his plane was shot down.

The inquiry called on the US National Security Agency to release "classified" cockpit recordings from the time to confirm whether a mercenary fighter jet may have shot down the plane.

Hammarskjold, the UN's second secretary-general, died in mysterious circumstances in September 1961 while on a peace mission to the newly independent Congo, when his plane crashed shortly before landing at Ndola airport in Zambia (then Northern Rhodesia).

The mineral-rich province of Katanga was fighting to secede from Congo, with the backing of the West and their commercial interests in the region.

"There is persuasive evidence that the aircraft was subjected to some form of attack or threat as it circled to land at Ndola," said the 61-page report released in The Hague by a commission consisting of high-profile international judges and diplomats.

Fifteen people including Hammarskjold died when the DC-6, known as the Albertina, smashed into the ground near Ndola as it came in to land ahead of a meeting between the UN's top official and Katangan leader Moise Tshombe. A sole survivor of the crash died days later.

"We ... consider the possibility that the plane was in fact forced into its descent by some form of hostile action is supported by sufficient evidence to merit further enquiry," the report added.

The commission cited new witnesses who claimed to have seen a second aircraft shooting at the Albertina on the night of the crash almost 52 years ago. Several told how they saw two planes in the sky over Ndola, the larger one on fire.

Retired British judge Sir Stephen Sedley, the commission's chairman, said it was necessary to listen to cockpit or radio conversations believed to have been recorded by the US National Security Agency in 1961.

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