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U.N. wants Hammarskjold answers

Seeks probe in ’61 crash that claimed secretary-general

Dag Hammarskjold, then-United Nations secretary general, in Stockholm in May 1953. (AP)
Dag Hammarskjold, then-United Nations secretary general, in Stockholm in May 1953. (AP)
Edith M. Lederer Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. General Assembly voted unanimously Monday to ask Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to appoint an independent panel of experts to examine new information about the mysterious plane crash that killed U.N. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold on a peace mission to newly independent Congo in 1961.

The 193-member world body approved a resolution by consensus encouraging member states to release any relevant records and information on his death in the plane crash over the African bush in Northern Rhodesia – today’s Zambia.

The assembly’s action follows an independent investigation by a Commission of Jurists released in September 2013 that concluded “significant new evidence” exists which might shed light on the circumstances of Hammarskjold’s death. It said the U.S. National Security Agency may hold crucial evidence, which remains classified.

Hammarskjold was flying into a war zone infested with mercenaries and riven by Cold War tensions.

Congo won its freedom from Belgium in 1960, but foreign multinationals coveted its vast mineral wealth. The country was challenged by a Western-backed insurgency in Katanga, which hosted mining interests belonging to the U.S., Britain, and Belgium. The Western countries also were jockeying for influence with the Soviet Union.

All four powers had a stake in the outcome of Congo’s struggle, and all four have been fingered as potential suspects in Hammarskjold’s death. Three investigations into the tragedy have failed to satisfactorily settle the matter.

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