U.N. To Probe Whether Iconic Secretary-General Was Assassinated…



U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki­-moon will propose reopening an inquiry into allegations that Dag Hammarskjold, one of the most revered secretaries-general in the organization’s history, was assassinated by an apartheid-era South African paramilitary organization that was backed by the CIA, British intelligence, and a Belgian mining company, according to several officials familiar with the case.

The move follows the South African government’s recent discovery of decades old intelligence documents detailing the alleged plot, dubbed Operation Celeste, that was designed to kill Hammarskjold. In a recent letter to the United Nations, South African authorities said the documents have been transferred to their Justice Ministry so U.N. officials could review them, according to diplomatic sources. The South African Mission to the United Nations did not respond to a request for comment. The CIA has previously dismissed allegations that it was behind Hammarskjold’s death as “absurd and without foundation.”

This new information (the discovery of which has not previously been reported) is surfacing more than a year after a U.N. panel of experts, chaired by Tanzanian Chief Justice Mohamed Chande Othman, wrapped up a wide-ranging review of fresh evidence that had emerged in the years following the mysterious 55-­year-old air tragedy. The panel urged the secretary-general, ­­who is already required by a 1962 General Assembly resolution to report on any new evidence shedding light on Hammarskjold’s death, to keep pressing governments and their intelligence agencies to disclose or declassify information that could fill gaps in the evidence surrounding the tragedy.

Copies of the South African documents describing Operation Celeste were first made public about 18 years ago, but South Africa was unable to locate the original documents, making it impossible to substantiate their authenticity by subjecting them to ink and paper testing. It remains unclear precisely which documents the South Africans have discovered. But officials familiar with the South African letter to the U.N. said Pretoria confirmed that it had located previously lost documents related to Operation Celeste. The discovery, however, raised hopes that the U.N. could verify whether the documents were in fact produced at the time of Hammarskjold’s death.


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