UN chief: Review potential information on Hammarskjold death

AP News
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Posted: Aug 24, 2016 4:01 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is calling for a review of potential new information, including from South Africa, on the mysterious 1961 plane crash that killed U.N. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold.

Ban recommended in a note to the U.N. General Assembly circulated Wednesday that either he or the 193-member world body should appoint "an eminent person or persons" to conduct the review and "determine the scope that any further inquiry or investigation should take."

The General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution last November urging all countries — especially the United States, Britain and South Africa — to release all information on the crash in what is now Zambia while Hammarskjold was on a peace mission to newly independent Congo.

"This may be our last chance to find the truth," Ban reiterated. "Seeking a complete understanding of the circumstances is our solemn duty to my illustrious and distinguished predecessor, Dan Hammarskjold, to the other members of the party accompanying him, and to their families."

An independent panel reviewing new information about the crash said in July 2015 that the United States and Britain retained some classified files, and that South Africa had not responded to several requests for information.

The panel's 99-page report put to rest claims that Hammarskjold was assassinated after surviving the crash. But it has long been rumored that his DC-6 plane was shot down, and the panel provided new information about a possible aerial attack or interference.

Ban said in his note that in response to U.N. requests for information, Britain again refused to release classified material.

He said responses received from the United States and Belgium didn't alter the panel's conclusion that the possibility of an aerial attack or interference should be pursued.

As for South Africa, Ban's note included a letter dated July 1, 2016 from South Africa's U.N. Mission saying the government fully supports the U.N. investigation and "the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development has directed that a search be undertaken for any documents, records or information."

The panel cited documents from the South African Institute for Maritime Research that refer to "Operation Celeste," purportedly to "remove" Hammarskjold with cooperation from then U.S. CIA director Allen Dulles. It was not able to conclude whether the documents were authentic.

In his note, Ban said, "If it is the case that original documents may now be available from South Africa, it may be possible to conduct forensic or other analyses to make a determination of their authenticity."

"Whether the documents are authentic or not would allow the hypothesis relating to 'Operation Celeste' to be either supported or dispelled, either of which would be a contribution to the historical record," Ban said.

He said the U.N. has also received additional information about Hammarskjold's death since the panel's report.

"In my view, these communications appear to represent lines of inquiry that are not yet fully explored," Ban said.

He said the conclusion he sent to the General Assembly in July 2015 still stands — that "a further inquiry or investigation would be necessary."