Revealed: the fate of Idi Amin's hijack victim

Law Editor,Robert Verkaik
Tuesday 13 February 2007 01:00 GMT

The grisly truth about the disappearance of a British woman believed to have been murdered on the orders of the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, has been revealed for the first time in secret papers released by the government.

Dora Bloch, a 74-year-old grandmother, was a passenger on an Air France plane from Athens to Paris when it was hijacked by Palestinian terrorists and forced down at Entebbe airport, Uganda, in 1976.

During the hijack, Mrs Bloch was taken ill after choking on some food and released to be treated in a hospital in Kampala.

Days later, Israeli commandos stormed the airport, killing all the terrorists and destroying half of Amin's air force.

But in the aftermath of the raid there was no sign of Mrs Bloch either in the hospital or with the released hostages who were flown back to Israel.

It was always believed that a humiliated Amin wreaked his revenge on her and that the day after the raid she was dragged from her hospital bed. But it has never been clear how she died and Amin always denied any involvement.

Now confidential cabinet papers released under the Freedom of Information Act show that the British High Commission in Kampala received a report from a Ugandan civilian that Mrs Bloch had been shot and her body dumped in the boot of a car which had Ugandan intelligence services number plates.

The same informant said that the body of a white woman had been found in a sugar plantation 19 miles from the capital. A further intelligence report says the face had been badly burnt, making identification difficult, but that the legs looked "bad" and that could have been the leg ulcers from which doctors confirmed she was suffering. The policeman guarding Mrs Bloch was also murdered, said the report.

Mrs Bloch's death, which was ignored in the Oscar -nominated film of Amin's life, The Last King of Scotland, became a major international incident, provoking outrage in the British Parliament.

The secret papers go on to describe the British government's repeated requests for information about the whereabouts of Mrs Bloch, who was on her way to her son's wedding in New York, as well as President Amin's denials of any involvement in her killing.

In the absence of any satisfactory explanation, the British withdrew their high commissioner and later broke off diplomatic relations with Uganda.

A confidential Foreign Office memo written by James Hennessy, the British High Commissioner to Uganda, says: "She had been seen by a consultant at Mulago Hospital last Sunday long after the Israeli commandos had come and gone. Since then she had been not seen anywhere. Our information was that she had been dragged from her bed at hospital screaming. Though she had been living in Israel, she was a British national and our responsibility. The Prime Minister has decided that I should come out and inquire into her disappearance and then report to him. The parliament, the whole British people, were concerned about her fate. She appeared to be an innocent victim of the Israeli raid."

A second confidential Foreign Office briefing report sent to No 10 says the most likely scenario was that Mrs Bloch was killed by Ugandan soldiers "bitter and dangerous following their disgrace at Israeli hands". About 50 Ugandan soldiers were killed by the Israelis during the raid. The report adds: "They may have seized on the only available Jew on whom to extract their revenge."

The Foreign Office confirms that Mrs Bloch, who had also required treatment for leg ulcers, was seen by a member of the British high commission while under guard at hospital.

"Moreover, President Amin confirmed that while in hospital, Mrs Bloch developed leg ulcers... Nonetheless, he had ordered her return to join the other hostages. He admitted, however, that he could not ensure all his orders were carried out. President Amin therefore did not deny the possibility that the Ugandans had custody of Mrs Bloch at the time of the Israeli raid and thereafter," says the report.

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