UN Leader Ramps Up Probe Of Predecessor's Feared Murder

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon last week authorized an intensified probe of the suspicious 1961 airplane crash that killed his peace-keeping predecessor Dag Hammarskjold.

UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon UN PortraitThe UN's leader moved forward after preliminary inquiries raised additional questions over whether Western powers colluded to kill the Swedish diplomat, who had been working with emerging former colonies in Africa and elsewhere.

The initiative by Ban, shown in a file photo, comes after claims of Belgian and U.S. complicity in the plane crash over Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), which authorities announced at the time as an accident.

Ban, regarded as highly supportive of U.S. policies in general, nonetheless advanced this inquiry. He said in a statement that a new investigation would "finally establish the facts."

Dag Hammarskjold at deskHammarskjold, shown at his desk, died while engaged in diplomatic efforts regarding the former Belgian colony of the Congo. The secretary-general planned to see Moise Tsombe, a pro-West leader of the province of Katanga that had broken-away from the central government led by the Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba.

The CIA has acknowledged complicity in Lumumba's kidnapping, torture, and assassination along with two aides. Katangan forces that seized them after just 12 weeks of his leadership.

News coverage of the UN investigation of Hammarskjold's death, including of last week's announcement, has varied widely according to the editorial perspective of the outlet.

CNN's story by Richard Roth, for example, buried suspicions of U.S. complicity in the bottom of its report, U.N. urges new look at 1961 plane crash that killed secretary-general .

Independent researchers experienced in studying 1960s assassinations promptly recognized the importance of Ban's decision last week. The Assassination Archives and Research Center (AARC), for example, is posting on its website previous reporting by researcher Lisa Pease, some of which is excerpted here in her 2013 column for Consortium News,The Mysterious Death of a UN Hero, and below.

Another of her columns was published in 1999 by Probe Magazine, Midnight in the Congo: The Assassination of Lumumba and the Mysterious Death of Dag Hammarskjold.

She was one of three Americans to testify in a previous UN inquiry. For her Probe magazine column, she wrote:
The CIA has long since acknowledged responsibility for plotting the murder of Patrice Lumumba, the popular and charismatic leader of the Congo. But documents have recently surfaced that indicate the Patrice Lumumba Congo, raising arms in 1960 showing shackles marksCIA may well have been involved in the death of another leader as well, U.N. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold. Hammarskjold died in a plane crash en route to meet Moise Tshombe, leader of the breakaway (and mineral-rich) province of Katanga.
[Lumumba is shown at right in January 1960 showing shackles marks on his wrist following his release from harsh imprisonment imposed by Belgian colonial powers.]
At the time of his death, there was a great deal of speculation that Hammarskjold had been assassinated to prevent the U.N. from bringing Katanga back under the rule of the central government in the Congo. Fingers were pointed at Tshombe’s mercenaries, the Belgians, and even the British. Hardly anyone at the time considered an American hand in those events.
However, two completely different sets of documents point the finger of culpability at the CIA.
The CIA has denied having anything to do with the murder of Hammarskjold.

CNN's report by Roth said Ban, a long time admirer of Hammarskjold, said an investigation should be done after a special panel he appointed found Hammarskjold could have been targeted by air, or some other form of attack. The panel found new information, which was assessed as having "moderate probative value" -- enough to further pursue aerial attack or other interference as a hypothesis of the possible cause of the crash. It continued:

The three-member panel interviewed new witnesses who claimed they had seen two planes in the sky that night, one of which caught fire before crashing. The report also says the local government in the region included foreign troops that may have had "air capability." The report did rule out sabotage or hijacking as potential causes of the crash. It said new evidence was found to look at crew fatigue as a possible contributing factor.

To further deepen the mystery, any new investigation would include testimony from former U.S. national security intelligence officers. Two of them talked with the U.N. panel and said they had listened or read radio intercepts that suggested the secretary-general's plane was attacked. The report also states that the leader's cryptography machine had been designed to allow select intelligence agencies, including the National Security Agency, to listen.

Harry S. TrumanRoth also included a chilling historical allusion from former President Harry Truman, shown in a file photo. Truman created the CIA in 1947 but later became a critic of the agency's expanding activities globally as an operational entity with reduced oversight by the White House.

"Former U.S. President Harry Truman," Roth reported last week in history about the Hammarskjold death, "stoked fears when he told reporters just two days after the crash, "Dag Hammarskjold was on the point of getting something done when they killed him. Notice I said, 'When they  killed him.'"

Sidney SouersJustice Integrity Project research has found similar views by Truman elsewhere. The former president, for example, wrote a syndicated column that appeared in the Washington Post on Dec. 22, 1963, exactly 30 days after President John F. Kennedy's death.

The column, "Limit CIA Role To Intelligence," called for curtailment of CIA powers. His first Central Intelligence director, Navy Rear Admiral Sidney Souers (shown in a portrait), wrote Truman to congratulate him on the column, according to correspondence available at the Truman Library in Independence, MO.

The next year, Truman reacted to a positive feature in Look Magazine about the CIA's global reach by writing Editor William B. Arthur privately to say in a letter dated June 10, "The CIA was set up by me for the sole purpose of getting all the available information to the President. It was not intended to operate as an international agency engaged in strange activities."

Historians have since uncovered many such activities by the CIA and its even more secret major counterpart, the National Security Agency.

With the UN now ramping up its probe of the 1961 plane crash, it remains to be seen if there is more to learn about how the World War II FDR-Truman-era fight against fascism morphed into strange new directions.


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Related News Coverage

CNN, U.N. urges new look at 1961 plane crash that killed secretary-general, Richard Roth, July 8, 2015. The dry, tedious world of the United Nations system might have a major mystery on its hands. The question is this: Was acclaimed former U.N. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold murdered, instead of being a victim of a plane crash accident in 1961? The case is back in the spotlight after Ban Ki-Moon, the current secretary-general, called for further investigation this week. Hammarskjold died along with 15 other passengers on September 18, 1961, when their plane went down in a forest. The Swedish diplomat was en route to broker a truce between rebels and the government, and to unite the Congo in southern Africa. Hammarskjold, the body's second secretary-general, received the Nobel Peace Prize following his death. He is remembered as perhaps the United Nations' most effective and boldest executive during a time of Cold War tensions. Though it was generally believed at the time the crash was not suspicious, it didn't take long for conspiracy theorists and others to say that Hammarskjold did not die by accident. Former U.S. President Harry Truman stoked fears when he told reporters just two days after the crash, "Dag Hammarskjold was on the point of getting something done when they killed him. Notice I said, 'When they killed him.'" Now, Ban says there's enough new information to question what has so far been determined or assumed about the crash, which occurred in what is now Zambia.

Los Angeles Times, 'Significant new evidence' cited in 1961 death of U.N.'s Hammarskjold, Carol J. Williams, Sept. 9, 2013. An international legal inquiry into the 1961 plane crash that killed U.N. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold claimed Monday to have identified "significant new evidence" of possible sabotage that justifies reopening the inconclusive U.N. investigation done in 1962. It was 1961 and the Cold War battle for influence in newly independent African states was sharply focused on the Congo. The first elected leader, Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, had been kidnapped, tortured and killed by a military junta earlier in the year. With the anarchic new state falling under the sway of the Soviet Union, Katanga politician Moise Tshombe cleaved his province and its wealth of uranium, copper and cobalt mines into a separate state supported and protected by former Belgian colonial masters. U.N. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold was reportedly on the brink of reunifying the two Congolese factions when his plane crashed on approach to Ndola, Northern Rhodesia, where he was to get Tshombe's signature on a truce.

Consortium News, The Mysterious Death of a UN Hero, Lisa Pease, Sept. 16, 2013. Exclusive: More than a half-century ago – at a pivotal moment in the emergence of independent African states – UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold was brokering peace in a divisive civil war in Congo when he died in a plane crash, leaving behind an enduring Cold War mystery, as Lisa Pease reports.

Fifty-two years ago, just after midnight on Sept. 18, 1961, the plane carrying UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld and 15 others went down in a plane crash over Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). All 16 died, but the facts of the crash were provocatively mysterious. There have been three investigations into the crash: an initial civil aviation Board of Inquiry, a Rhodesian Commission of Inquiry, and a UN Commission in 1962. Not one of them could definitively answer why the plane crashed or whether a deliberate act had been responsible. While a few authors have looked into and written about the strange facts of the crash in the years since the last official inquiry in 1962, none did a more thorough reinvestigation than Dr. Susan Williams, a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London, whose book Who Killed Hammarskjöld? was released in 2011, 50 years after the crash. Her presentation of the evidence was so powerful it launched a new UN commission to determine whether the UN should reopen its initial investigation. 

Probe Magazine via CTKA, Midnight in the Congo: The Assassination of Lumumba and the Mysterious Death of Dag Hammarskjold, Lisa Pease, April-May, 1999.

            "In Elizabethville, I do not think there was anyone there who believed that his death was as accident." — U.N. Representative Conor O’Brien on the death of U.N. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold

            "A lot has not been told." — Unnamed U.N. official, commenting on same


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