More than 50 years after United Nations chief Dag Hammarskjold died in a plane crash in what was then Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), the UN is considering reopening its investigation. The 1962 probe into the crash that killed the Swedish diplomat and 15 others the previous year came to no conclusion, but Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has recommended it be reopened in light of new evidence that includes a declassified NSA document suggesting the DC-6 airliner was shot down by a Belgian mercenary pilot, reports the Wall Street Journal. The plane went down in a forest 9 miles from the airport shortly after midnight on Sept. 18, 1961.
Hammarskjold was on his way to negotiate an end to a conflict between the UN-backed government of the newly independent Congo and secessionists backed by Belgian colonialists. Witnesses reported seeing another plane, but Swedish and Rhodesian investigators concluded that pilot error had caused the crash. A former NSA operative, however, revealed to researchers a few years ago that he heard an intercept of a pilot attacking the UN plane. The NSA cable sent by the then-US ambassador to the Congo suggested the pilot was the mercenary who commanded the separatists' small air force, a Belgian man who died in 2007. "The telegram reveals that on the morning after the crash, the ambassador thought it credible that the plane had been shot down by a mercenary pilot," a researcher tells the Guardian. (Read more Dag Hammarskjold stories.)