Did Britain Kill The UN Secretary General?

The 17th September, 1961 gave birth to one of the most enduring political mysteries of the twentieth century As night fell, a small passenger jet – The Albertina – crashed over Zambia, instantly killing all but one of the people onboard

This was no ordinary plane It was carrying then UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold, who was en route to broker a ceasefire in the Congolese civil war Official records categorise the event as a tragic accident

But evidence suggests British spies shot down the plane down to eliminate Hammarskjold As former US President Harry Truman said, Hammarskjold was at “the point of getting something done when they killed him Notice that I said ‘when they killed him’

” Hammarskjold was on his way to meet Moise Tshombe, the rebel leader who had just declared independence in the Congolese province of Katanga He was hoping to negotiate a regional peace deal on behalf of the UN Tshombe was backed by the UK, the US and the Congo’s former colonial ruler, Belgium

Each of these powers had significant financial interests in him succeeding – he had promised to rule Katanga and maintain British and Western control of its resources But Hammarskjold took a very different view He supporting Congo’s democratically elected authorities, run by Prime Minister Cyrille Adoula, who was backed by the Soviets But Hammarskjold never reached the Congo His plane went down over Ndola in present day Zambia

At that point the country was a British colony known as Northern Rhodesia The British opposed Hammarskjold’s involvement in the Congo As reporter Katie Engelhart says, “Katanga [was] backed by mining executives, reams of mercenaries, and… high up officials within American and European governments, all of whom were fighting to see Africa’s colonial order maintained” Engelhart believes that as the British Empire teetered on its last legs, British authorities were willing to go to any lengths to help keep Africa under its control The Rhodesian government led Inquiries in 1961 and 1962

They claimed the crash was caused by pilot error But, these results were far from conclusive A 1962 inquiry by the UN deemed the incident a possible sabotage The case lay dormant until 2015 when a UN report revealed “significant new information” This indicated the plane had crashed due to a deliberate “aerial attack or other interference”

This supports anonymous eyewitness testimonies at the time, which said a smaller plane had attacked the Albertina Sergeant Harold Julien, the only surviving passenger, gave a similar account He said that Hammarskjold ordered the plane to change its destination just before it crashed Soon afterwards, there was a series of sudden explosions that brought the plane down Curiously, photographs from the scene contrast with the official reports

Unlike the other bodies, Hammarskjold’s corpse showed no signs of burns Instead, he appeared to have received several bullets to the head Bjorn Egge, the former Chief of UN Military Intelligence in the Congo, confirms this He says Hammarskjold’s forehead bullet wound was eradicated from all postmortem photographs But this was far from the darkest element of his death

Witnesses say there was a playing card lodged in the lapel of his shirt Norman Kenward, who photographed the bodies, said “[Hammarskjold ] did have the Ace of Spades in his shirt collar… It was requested at that time not to mention this” The Ace of Spades is a classic battle symbol representing a successful assassination of an enemy Vietnam War veteran Jim Brennan described how “soldiers would place the cards on the eyes of a dead Viet Cong It meant that the card was the last thing they saw

” The British government has several classified files about the crash it has repeatedly refused to share with UN investigators Many intelligence experts, like Dr Susan Williams, believe they are simply trying to hide their involvement in the disaster Williams, a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Commonwealth Studies, claims to have damning proof that British intelligence was secretly working in Ndola on that fateful night This includes a letter from a British High Commission official to MI6 agent Neil Ritchie, written on the day of the “accident” Ritchie describes personally taking a Kadanga leader to meet Hammarskjold

This proves UK spy agencies recorded their activities in the area It also raises more questions over Britain’s refusals to disclose relevant documents from the period Journalist Jamie Doward says that unfavourable eyewitness reports were left out of the original investigation

He says, “An industrialist in the copper belt… apparently saw convoys of Land Rovers [driven by white men] heading into the bush after the crash” Reporter Julian Borger suggests they may have visited the wreckage to shoot Hammarskjold in the head, ensuring he was dead Others at the scene claimed that the Albertina was riddled with bullets, supporting witness accounts that it had been shot out of the sky Remarkably, there is next to no evidence that the crash was caused by pilot error The 2015 UN report highlights the possibility of foul play

Yet its findings were inconclusive and do not confirm whether it was an assassination It also reveals that Britain is not the only suspect The USA also had a vested interested in preventing Hammarskjold from negotiating a peace deal with the rebels The States made huge profits by exploiting Congo’s gold, mineral, copper, diamonds and oil wealth As Jamie Doward says, many suspect proof of U

S involvement would “become available if the US National Security Agency (NSA) complies with a new request from the UN and hands over crucial intelligence intercepts that could confirm what brought down the Albertina” The USA had an intelligence listening post in the area at the time, which allegedly has recordings of all the cockpit conversations in the area that night Importantly, if the US

was involved in an assassination plot it could very well have been working with British authorities In this case, the answer might rest on secret UN cables discovered by Swedish diplomat Göran Björkdahl [Yor-ahn Byork-dal] in 2011 He said they revealed Hammarskjold’s intentions to end Western exploitation of the region Not long before his death he discovered the powerful mining firm Union Miniere was covertly obstructing UN activity in the Congo The company was owned by American, Belgian and British authorities, the same people who wanted Tshombe to win

A lot of evidence suggests that Dag Hammarskjold was murdered in an attempt to thwart Congo’s elected government The British government is the main suspect Sadly, without the classified UK intelligence files, we may never know what really unfolded on the 17th September 1961

There is also a real possibility that another Western power – perhaps Belgium or the US – brought the Albertina down The jury remains out

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