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Subject: South African Links Spy to Slaying of Swedish Premier From: "Stephen B. Kennedy-IV"September 27, 1996
Date: 1996/09/27 Message-Id: <firstname.lastname@example.org> Newsgroups: soc.culture.south-Africa
By SUZANNE DALEY
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- The commander of an apartheid-era police hit squad testified Thursday that one of South Africa's most notorious spies had been involved in the assassination of Prime Minister Olof Palme of Sweden more than 10 years ago.
Since Palme was killed in Stockholm as he was walking home from the movies with his wife in February 1986, police have received more than 18,000 tips, and thousands of theories have been put forward. But the case remains unsolved.
In his testimony, the commander, Eugene de Kock, said the assassination, by a lone gunman who shot Palme in the back of the head, had been the work of Operation Long Reach, a secret apartheid-era program intended to harass, silence and gather information about opponents of South Africa's white-led government abroad.
De Kock, convicted last month on 89 charges, including 6 murder charges, made the allegation during a hearing to help the judge decide on his sentence.
He provided no details to substantiate his claim, saying simply that he had volunteered to provide law enforcement authorities with information on the case. Prosecutors who were cross-examining de Kock in the Pretoria Supreme Court on Thursday did not pursue the matter.
"It was one of Craig Williamson's Operation Long Reach projects," de Kock said of the assassination. "I wanted it to be investigated before it was covered up."
Williamson, who could not be reached for comment, was one of the government's most effective spies in the 1970s and '80s and has admitted his involvement in many bombings and other activities against foes of apartheid.
Williamson has reportedly applied for amnesty to South Africa's newly created Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He said recently that he was now earning his living importing cigarettes and soda to Angola.
Sweden's ambassador to South Africa, Bo Heineback, said Thursday that any new information about Palme's death would be welcome. He said the involvement of South Africa had been the subject of speculation before because of Palme's strong anti-apartheid stance. But he added that theories had run the gamut from conspiracies involving the CIA, the KGB and Israel's intelligence agency, Mossad.
While de Kock, the former head of the notorious Vakplaas police unit, spent last week confessing to an endless stream of activities that included torturing, shooting and blowing up political activists, Williamson has done much the same in the press over the last year and a half.
Among his most notable confessions was to his role in sending the parcel bomb that killed Ruth First, a prominent academic and journalist and wife of Joe Slovo, a leader of the African National Congress, in Mozambique in 1982. The bomb, he said, was meant for Slovo.
He has also described his role in the killing in 1984 of the activist Jeanette Schoon and her young daughter, who were living in the Angolan city of Lubango. The bomb had been intended for her husband, Marius Schoon, an ANC operative.
Officially, Williamson left the police department in 1985, ostensibly to go into business with an Italian millionaire operating from the Seychelles. In reality, he then started Long Reach, a company that did some legitimate international security work, but which was largely created to give him the cover to do whatever he pleased around the world.
Williamson has told reporters that Long Reach specialized in intelligence gathering, doing things like recruiting Ugandans to spy on ANC students in Tanzania, using Ghanaians and Malawians to recruit spies in London and using Britons to recruit spies in African countries.
In 1987 Williamson left Long Reach to take up a position as a National Party member of South Africa's now defunct President's Council, a prestigious advisory body.
Copyright 1996 The New York Times Company