UNITED NATIONS -- A U.N. inquiry panel said Tuesday it 'clearly established' South African involvement in the unsuccessful attempt by mercenaries to seize the Seychelles islands.
A band of 44 mercenaries passing themselves off as a beer-drinking club hijacked a jetliner Nov. 25, 1981, after Seychelles authorities discovered guns in their baggage. One mercenary and a local policemen were killed in an exchange of fire.
The U.N. panel, composed of Panamanian, Irish and Japanese representatives, in its first report last March said only that it was 'hard to believe' South Africa had no prior knowledge of the plot to overthrow the leftist government on the Indian Ocean island.
In the supplementary report the panel said further information implicating the South African authorities had emerged.
It said 'it is not now disputed' that Col. Thomas (Mad Mike) Hoare, a former British army officer and the leader of the mercenaries, approached the South African national intelligence service and was referred to members of the defense forces.
'Clearly NIS (National Intelligence Service) was aware of the preparations for the mercenary aggression from their inception through Hoare's admitted contacts with NIS,' the report said.
The panel said it uncovered several other matters 'which it considers clearly established' South African involvement:
-- Arms, ammunition and other equipment were supplied by South African Defense Force personnel;
-- An (South African) army officer participated in the preliminary discussions;
-- The government was generally aware of attempts by Seychelles exiles seeking support to overthrow the Seychelles government;
-- Members of an elite South African commando unit took part in the operation.
Hoare and 41 of his mercenary band were convicted by a South Afrian court of air piracy.
The authorities released 34 of them after serving four months of their six months sentences. Hoare and seven others remain in prison, serving terms of one to 10 years.