Apartheid assassin `killed Swedish PM'

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The Independent Online
The number one assassin of the apartheid era said yesterday that the South African intelligence services had been responsible for the death of Olof Palme, the Swedish prime minister gunned down in a Stockholm street in 1986.

Eugene de Kock, a former South African security police colonel, implicated Craig Williamson, another former colonel, in the assassination of Palme, a crime which has thus far proved impenetrable .

De Kock, who used to be known by his colleagues as "Prime Evil", confessed last week that he planted a bomb outside the London headquarters of Nelson Mandela's ANC in 1982. He said that Williamson, dubbed the apartheid regime's "superspy" by the South African press, had planned the London bombing.

De Kock was testifying yesterday in a Pretoria Court where last month he was found guilty of 89 crimes, including six murders. He is seeking to reduce his sentence by revealing information to the court on the murderous inner workings of the apartheid security apparatus. He told the court yesterday he had already provided many details of apartheid crimes to the South African Attorney General, such as Palme's assassination, which, he said, was "one of Craig Williamson's `Operation Long Reach' projects." De Kock added: "I wanted it to be investigated before it was covered up."

Operation Long Reach was a top-secret project designed to intimidate or silence opponents of apartheid abroad. Palme was a passionate critic of apartheid and a leading advocate of sanctions against South Africa.

Hans-Gunner Axberger, the spokesman for the Palme investigation commission, said yesterday he could not comment on de Kock's allegations but said that over the past 10 years connections had emerged "with almost every country".

The latest South African connection appears more plausible than most because of the ruthlessness with which de Kock and Williamson set about their task of defending the apartheid system against enemies at home and abroad. De Kock was the hit-man, Williamson the brains. De Kock is tall, bespectacled and clean-cut. Williamson is medium height, bearded and obese. Where de Kock is awkward and stutter-prone, Williamson is affable and articulate.

The two did not always work together. Williamson made his name during the late Seventies when, posing as a sympathiser, he penetrated ANC operationsabroad. His cover was blown in 1980 and he returned to South Africa where he played a key role in clandestine operations against the ANC.

De Kock's history is more spectacular, for it appears to substantiate a claim last week by a senior ANC official that he is the world's most prolific killer. During the early Eighties he commanded a South African security-police unit in the Namibian war known as Koevoet, or Crowbar. Koevoet, whose soldiers were black Namibians, were denounced the world over for the ferocious manner in which they killed captured Swapo guerrillas.

In the mid-Eighties, de Kock was transferred to Pretoria where he headed a hit squad whose orders were to eliminate ANC sympathisers inside South Africa. After Nelson Mandela's release in 1990, he shifted his attentions to the security force strategy of stoking what used to be called "black- on-black" violence. He provided arms, training and back-up to leading figures in Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Inkatha during their undeclared war on ANC supporters and their families. More than 10,000 died in South Africa's township wars between 1990 and the elections of 1994.