Monday, 3 July 2017

Was the UN General Secretary murdered?                                                   

Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjöld (29 July 1905—18 September 1961) was a Swedish diplomat, economist, and author who served as the second Secretary-General of the United Nations, from April 1953 until his death in a plane crash in September 1961.

There was a breakaway in the southern Katanga province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In September 1961, Hammarskjöld learned about fighting between the "non-combatant" United Nations forces and  the forces of Moise    Tshombe's  Katangese troops. Hammarskjöld was en-route to negotiate a cease-fire with Tshombe on September 18 when his Douglas DC-6 airliner  had crashed  near  Ndola, Northern  Rhodesia. (now called Zambia)

Henning Melber, the former director of the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation, explained that the UN chief's mission to unite the Congo automatically pitted him against colonial settlers desperate to hold onto power and Katanga's vast mineral resources.

Göran Björkdahl (a Swedish aid worker) wrote in 2011 that he believed Dag Hammarskjöld's death was a murder committed in part, to benefit mining companies like Union Minière, after Hammarskjöld had ordered the UN to intervene in the Katanga crisis. Björkdahl based his assertion on interviews with witnesses of the plane crash, near the border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo with Rhodesia, and on archival documents.  

The former American President, Harry Truman commented that Hammarskjöld "was on the point of getting something done when they killed him.” Notice that he said 'when they killed him'. Of course, that was speculation on Truman’s part.

That news followed the South African government’s claims to have recently uncovered original secret documents in Operation Celeste—a plot to kill the Swedish diplomat, and had offered to make them available to the UN.

Previous documents quoted CIA director Allen Dulles as calling Hammarskjöld "troublesome" and saying he "should be removed". Hammarskjöld supported full independence for a united Congo, an unpopular position with the South Africans, the U.S. and the U.K.

The new probe was to examine allegations that Hammarskjöld was assassinated by an apartheid-era South African paramilitary organization that was backed by the CIA and MI5 and a Belgian mining company, according to several officials familiar with the case. The CIA has said that it had nothing to do with Hammarskjöld's death and the claims saying otherwise are "absurd and without foundation."

Hammarskjöld's plane plunged from the sky at night over the former Northern Rhodesia as he flew to orchestrate a ceasefire between Congo's government and Katanga province separatists.

 A crash report the following year pointed to pilot error. But several unusual witness statements raised continuing questions about the crash.

The official report stated that two of the dead Swedish bodyguards had suffered multiple bullet wounds. Medical examination, performed by the initial Rhodesian Board of Investigation and reported in the UN official report, indicated that the wounds were superficial, and that the bullets showed no signs of rifling which means that they weren’t fired from a rifle.  They concluded that the bullets' cartridges had exploded in the fire in the proximity of the bodyguards.

A special report issued by the United Nations following the crash stated that a bright flash in the sky was seen at approximately one in the morning. According to the UN special report, it was this information that resulted in the initiation of search and rescue operations.

Initial indications that the crash might not have been an accident led to multiple official inquiries and persistent speculation that the Secretary-General was assassinated.

The sole survivor of the crash was American security officer Sgt. Harold Julien. In his testimony before he died in the hospital was that he spoke of "sparks in the sky" and said the plane "blew up," but the lead inspector of the local investigation dismissed his statements as "rambling." However, it is conceivable that the dying man wasn't rambling at all. 

In June, 2015, new evidence was submitted to the United Nations' General Assembly that might help shed light on one of the enduring mysteries of the Twentieth Century.

The report included testimony from a former U.S. National Security Agency intelligence officer who claims he heard a recording of another pilot attacking the plane, as well as a Belgian pilot who says that he accidentally shot the plane down after being hired to merely divert it. This is based on testimony from the former Belgium pilot known only as Beukels who claimed  in 1967 that he accidentally downed the plane while trying to divert it with warning shots.  

This would add validity to the statement of the dying passenger who said that he saw what looked like sparks (possibly tracer bullets fired from the fighter plane) and an explosion while the plane was in the air. The explosion would have occurred if bullets from the fighter jet hit one of the motors. Strangely enough, there was no evidence found in the damaged motors that they had been struck by bullets. However, if one of the bullets hit a fuel line in the motor that was hit, that alone would be what would have  caused the explosion.

Some of the most compelling testimony of foul play comes from Charles Southall, who in 1961 was an intelligence officer stationed at the U.S. National Security Agency's naval communications base in Cyprus.

He said he heard a pilot shoot down Hammarskjöld's plane and that the CIA and/or the NSA have a recording of it. He told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)  “The watch supervisor called me and said, 'Come into work about midnight, something interesting is going to happen.”

That's when he said he heard a recording of the crash that somebody told him was seven minutes old, which, according to Southall, "meant that somebody down there in the Ndola area, was also waiting for this to happen, made a recording of it, put a date-time stamp on it and sent it off."

In his statement to the Commission of Inquiry, Southall recalled the pilot saying, “I see a transport plane coming low. All the lights are on. I'm going down to make a run on it. Yes, it's the Transair DC6. It's the plane.”

Then, the sound of cannon fire was heard, at which point the voice, which he described as cool and professional, became animated: “I've hit it. There are flames. It's going down. It's crashing.”

Southall, now 84, believes that the voice he heard was that of a Belgian mercenary pilot nicknamed The Lone Ranger.

In April 2014, The Guardian published evidence implicating Jan van Risseghem, a military pilot who served with the RAF during World War II, later with the Belgian Air Force and became famous as the pilot of Moise Tshombe in Katanga. The article claims that an American NSA employee, former naval pilot Commander Charles Southall, who was working at the NSA listening station in Cyprus in 1961 shortly after midnight on the night of the crash, heard an intercept of a pilot's commentary in the air over Ndola that was 3,000 miles away.

Southall recalled the pilot saying: "I see a transport plane coming low. All the lights are on. I'm going down to make a run on it. Yes, it is the Transair DC-6. It's the plane," adding that his voice was "cool and professional". Then he heard the sound of gunfire and the pilot exclaiming: "I've hit it. There are flames! It's going down. It's crashing!" Based on aircraft registration and availability with the Katangese Air Force, registration KAT-93, a Fouga CM.170 Magister would be the most likely aircraft used and claims that van Risseghem piloted the Magisters for the KAF in 1961.

Hours before the wreckage was officially located, the U.S. Ambassador in the Congo, Edmund Gullion, sent a cable to Washington speculating that the secretary general's plane might have been attacked by a known Belgian mercenary.

The Rhodesian Board of Investigation sent 180 men to search a six-square-kilometer area of the last sector of the aircraft's flight-path, looking for evidence as to the cause of the crash. No evidence of a bomb on board the plane, surface-to-air missile, or air to air missile or hijacking was found. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the plane wasn’t downed by the fighter plane.

The Rhodesian-led inquiry commission in 1961–62 concluded that it was pilot error caused the crash.  The first inquiry into the death of Dag Hammarskjöld was conducted by a Board of Investigation which was set up immediately after the crash by the Rhodesian Department of Civil Aviation.

It concluded in its report in January 1962 that ‘the evidence available does not enable them to determine a specific or definite cause of the accident.’ However, it regarded pilot error as one of several probable causes. Both pilots didn’t get the required sleep necessary before flying the plane. It considered the ‘wilful act of some person or persons unknown who were on board the plane who might have forced the aircraft to descend or collide with the trees’ to be unlikely but was unable to rule it out completely, ‘taking into consideration the extent of the destruction of the aircraft and the lack of survivor’s evidence.’ 75 to 80 per cent of the fuselage had been burnt.

In my opinion, the Rhodesian investigators came up with possible explanation. Every plane has an altimeter that tells the pilot how high his plane is from the ground. When planes are approaching the airports, the pilots are informed by the air traffic controllers what the elevation is at the airport. The pilots then turn a knob at the bottom of their plane’s altimeter to the figures given to them by the air traffic controllers. This allows for a proper assessment as to the real elevation between the plane and the ground at the airport. The pilot in the Hammarskjöld plane made the proper adjustment.

As the pilots headed towards the airport, they could see the runway lights. While descending, suddenly they didn’t see them anymore. What they didn’t know was that there was a small hill directly in front of them. They were unaware of the hill for two reasons. It was dark outside and on the navigational map; there was nothing on the map showing that there was a small hill directly ahead of them that was 14 kilometres short of the runway. Hence, the plane crashed into the trees on the hill and caught fire.  This explanation makes a lot of sense because an identical map was located and it also didn’t show the small hill on the map. Of course, this is all speculation.
On the 16th of March 2015, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed members to an Independent Panel of Experts which would examine new information related to Hammarskjöld's death. The three-member panel, led by Mohamed Chande Othman, the chief justice of Tanzania, also included Kerryn Macaulay (Australia's representative to the International Civil Aviation Organization  and Henrik Larsen (a ballistics expert from the Danish National Police).  The panel's 99-page report, released on July 6, 2015, assigned "moderate" value to nine new eyewitness accounts and transcripts of radio transmissions. Those accounts suggested that Hammarskjöld's plane was already on fire as it crashed according to other jet aircraft and intelligence agents who were nearby. I should point out that the plane was closing in towards the airport ahead of it when it crashed in the jungle. Were the intelligence agents from the CIA and the British MI5?

In August 20916, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made plans to urge the appointment of an investigator to look into Hammarskjöld's death once again, even though previous investigations found no official evidence that Hammarskjöld was deliberately murdered.

On the 29th of July 2005, Norwegian Major General Bjørn Egge gave an interview to the newspaper Aftenposten on the events surrounding Hammarskjöld's death. According to General Egge, who had been the first UN officer to see the body, Hammarskjöld had a hole in his forehead, and this hole was subsequently airbrushed from photos taken of the body. It appeared to Egge that Hammarskjöld had been thrown from the plane, and grass and leaves in his hands might indicate that he survived the crash and that he had tried to scramble away from the wreckage before he died. Egge does not claim directly that the wound was a gunshot wound.

The downing of Hammarskjöld’s plane is surely one of the most fascinating unsolved mysteries in history—a mystery that may never be solved. 

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