“External attack” may have caused crash that killed UN secretary general in 1961

Dag HammarskjöldA deliberate attack by another aircraft may have caused the plane crash that killed the United Nations Secretary General in 1961, according to a report commissioned by the intergovernmental organization. On September 17, 1961, a Douglas DC-6 transport aircraft carrying United Nations Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld crashed in the British-administered territory of Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). The crash killed everyone onboard. At the time of his death, Hammarskjöld was flying to the Congo’s mineral-rich Katanga region to meet European-supported chieftains who in 1960 had seceded from the nationalist government of Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. Ironically, Lumumba had been assassinated in a Western-backed coup exactly eight months before Hammarskjöld’s death.

Three successive investigations into the crash, conducted by the Rhodesian Board of Investigation, the Rhodesian Commission of Inquiry, and the United Nations Commission of Investigation, pointed to “pilot error” as the most likely cause of the tragedy. However, research carried out in recent years, including by the Hammarskjöld Commission, which was composed of a diplomat and three judges from the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Sweden, has shown that the crash could have been the result of deliberate actions. In February of this year, following a recommendation by a UN-appointed three-member expert panel, the organization tasked Mohamed Chande Othman, a former Tanzanian chief justice, to research the topic in depth. Othman reportedly delivered his final report to the UN Secretary General António Guterres in August. However, it has not yet been made public.

On Tuesday, however, British newspaper The Guardian said it had seen an executive summary of Othman’s report. According to the paper, the report gives credence to the testimony of several local witnesses, who claimed that they saw another aircraft flying near the plane that was carrying Hammarskjöld, and that there were “flashes in the [night] sky” shortly before one of the planes crashed. The report also revives a controversial account given by a French diplomat at the time, Claude de Kemoularia. Kemoularia, who served as Hammarskjöld’s personal assistant from 1957 until his death, claimed that the UN secretary general’s plane was shot down. The diplomat said that a Belgian pilot, identified only as Beukels, who was working as a contractor for Congo’s Katanga rebels, told him that he tried to fire shots as a warning at the UN plane, but accidentally clipped one of its wings, causing it to crash. According to The Guardian, Othman’s report concludes that “it appears possible that an external attack or threat may have been a cause of the crash, whether by way of direct attack or by causing a momentary distraction of the pilots”.

The paper also says that the Othman report calls for the declassification of documents on the 1961 crash, which are stored in Belgian, British, Canadian and German government archives. Othman claims that he has confirmed the existence of radio traffic transcripts that were intercepted on the night of the crash by British, Rhodesian and American military and intelligence agencies. Additionally, both Britain and the United States had intelligence officers and agents on the ground in the area during the time of the crash. The report argues that these operatives may have filed crucial reports from Northern Rhodesia following the crash, according to The Guardian.

Editor’s note: We are grateful to African politics and DR Congo expert Professor Herbert F. Weiss, Emeritus Professor of Political Science at City University of New York and Senior Fellow at the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies, for helping to ensure the factual accuracy of this report.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 27 September 2017 | Permalink

7 Responses to “External attack” may have caused crash that killed UN secretary general in 1961

  1. victorrosez says:

    The de Kemoularia story is a setup or a cover up. The Albertina has been shot down indeed but not by the pilot suggested by Claude de Kemoularia but by a Fouga Magister (KAT 93) which was waiting on a runway on the road to Kasumbalesa until another plane, a Dornier 28, navigating in the south boot of Katanga, very near to Ndola would give the exact position of the Albertina. That Dornier 28 from Munich arrived in Katanga already at the en of August 1961. The Pilot of the Fouga Magister was Jan Van Risseghem, a Belgian Pilot.

  2. Vervoort Karel says:

    Absolutely false statement of Victor Rosez. The sole and first Do 28 to arrive in Katanga was at Brazzaville on 20 September, when Van Risseghem was checked out on this aircraft. Van Risseghem departed on 21 September for Kolwezi, where he arrived on 22 September. The sole Fouga available in Katanga/Kolwezi airfield, Kat 93 was absolutely technically unable to do any interception at night over N’Dola, could not even reach that point due to very limited range/radius of action of that TRAINER aircraft. Even in the pure trainer configuration that was not possible, let alone armed and heavier thus. Whoever says so, has a second agenda, namely to hide the fact that it was a crew error, of a Swedish crew from a Swedish company, with a Swedish registered aircraft, transporting the Swedish UN Secretary General. Then it is hard for them and the UN to admit that it was a stupid CFIT accident, proven by all material indications. The Swedish Government should start to investigate to trace the Swedish airline documents to find there to why they wanted to hide these facts. A very disturbing contribution to this CFIT accident was the fact that this crew had nearly no sleep within the last 48 hours, was overtired, in a night VFR approach to an unknown airfield and nearly no experience with African flying these days.

  3. Vervoort Karel says:

    In the mean time, the de Kemoularia story finally has been proven to be totally false. There never ever was a pilot with the name of Beukels in Belgium or Katanga. de Kemoularia has effectively made a cover up for himself and a second person. they intended to sell this story to Paris Match, and they paid a still unidentified number of mercenaries (maybe including a mercenary with the name of Beukels, a ground guy,) for having the monopoly on this story. However, it was so stupidly set up that the story and de Kemoularia lost all credibility.

  4. victorrosez says:

    Kael Vervoort should better read the final report of the United Nations in which his story about the events around Ndola in 1961 are completely debunked or considered as inaccurate. Karel Vervoort has not been in Katanga or Ndola at the time while I was there. Myself and a few other witnesses, as stated in the report have seen the DO28 KA3016 prior to September 4 at Kipushi.

    The story of Beuckels Roger is analyzed as a cover up indeed but Claude de Kemoularia didn’t lose his credibility at all, as the whole set-up is explained very clearly in his agenda which is in hands of his daughter.

  5. victorrosez says:

    The story of Jan Van Risseghem and the Fouga KAT93 has been told by Pierre Coppens… However for this moment the UN report consider this witness as not accurate while the interference of the D028 KA3016 remains an open possibility. It is also possible that a Rhodesian Vampire was in the air at the moment of the crash of the Albertina.

  6. Karel Vervoort says:

    My explanantion of the aircraft crash of DH has NOT been debunked by the UN. On the contrary, they have now been searching for an assassin for about 6 years now, and did not fing a SINGLE proof of it. obvious, because there never has been an assassination. The UN Secretary General died in a simple CFIT accident because of a monstrous error of the Swedish Crew. That is all folks. Yes I was not in Congo/Katanga at the time of the event. Rosez was there as a young boy, but has not idea about flying! who then is the best armed to investigate this case. He can deliver what he thinks happened, but cannot prove anything.
    For those interested in getting my executive files about this case: fungu.air@skynet.be.

    People like Rosez should be stopped to talk nonsense, unless they can prove it. For instance above again he talks about a Vampire in the air. People that were in place ALL of them confirmed there was NO other plane in the air at the time of the crash. Moreover, any shooting would have been watched on the ground, and pieces of the airplane should have been found long before the impact( point, there were none. the first 400 yards of the 800 yards crashsite in the trees do not give a single proof of a burning plane before impact. However, there are enough proven facts that the crew descended BELOW the minimum approach altitude without any radio message.

  7. Karel Vervoort says:

    The story of de Kemoularia has been debunked completely to explain an external attack on the airplane. Beuckels never was a pilot, and he just managed to get money from de Kemoularia for his FAKE news story. Beuckels was a ground soldier.
    Rosez pretends teh Do28 wasin Katanga before 4 september. There is no single proof of it apart from his saying. He still continues the ludicrous “witness” saying of Coppens that everybody familiar with the file has abandoned as totally impossible. And in any case Jan Van Risseghem was neither in Katanga during the night of 17-18 september 1961 nor was the Fouga operationally or techically capable of an nighttime interception. Jan has flown on the Fouga, including one single checkout in nightflying from Lubumbashi/Elisabethville before leaving Katanga on the 28th of August under control of the UN itself! He departed late on the 16th of September via Paris to Brazzaville…. Mathematically impossible for him to be even in Katanga on the 17th so.
    [Edited due to violation of community posting standards -ed.]

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