A powerful South Africa-based mercenary group intentionally tried to spread AIDS in southern Africa in the 1980s and 1990s, a former member of the group has claimed in a new documentary.
Alexander Jones said he spent years working as an intelligence officer with the group, the South African Institute for Maritime Research (SAIMR), three decades ago, The Guardian reported.
“It was clandestine operations. We were involved in coups, taking over countries for other leaders,” Jones said in the documentary that premiered this weekend at the Sundance film festival.
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The mercenary group came to light in 1998 when it was accused of being behind the mysterious 1961 plane crash that killed UN secretary general Dag Hammarskjöld and 15 other people.
The existence of the group was questioned at the time but the information in the recent documentary, “Cold Case Hammarskjöld”, confirms that the group existed and that it played a crucial role in the crash.
SAIMR worked from a naval base in southern Johannesburg called Wemmer Pan and had was headed by Keith Maxwell, who made recruitments during the apartheid days in South Africa.
The latest development is that this same leader “thought the HIV virus could be isolated, propagated and used to target black Africans,” The Guardian report said.
“We were involved in Mozambique, spreading the Aids virus through medical conditions,” Jones, the former SAIMR member, claimed
Without any medical qualifications, Maxwell who had a “racist, apocalyptic obsession with HIV/AIDS” allegedly went ahead to ran clinics in largely poor, black areas around Johannesburg.
He claimed that he was a doctor and this gave him the chance to go on with his “sinister experimentation”, Jones said in the documentary.
Working from a building on the side of the former post office in Putfontein, Maxwell allegedly gave out false injections and other strange treatments, like putting patients through “tubes”, which was to allow him to see inside their bodies.
Maxwell was outwardly seen as a committed humanitarian, but in private the mercenary leader was something else – one who even expressed joy in the dawn of an epidemic, documents collected by the film/documentary makers suggested.
In one of the papers, he writes: “[South Africa] may well have one man, one vote with a white majority by the year 2000. Religion in its conservative, traditional form will return. Abortion on demand, abuse of drugs, and the other excesses of the 1960s, 70s and 80s will have no place in the post-Aids world.”
The film further discovered the murder of one of his recruits in 1990, believed to have been killed because of her work on an AIDS-related project undertaken by the group in southern Africa.
The deceased, Dagmar Feil, a marine biologist, had raised concerns about the group’s medical programmes. According to Jones, she was recruited to do “medical research.”
“She progressed and she became part of the inner circle for operations. She went to Mozambique to fulfil her obligations and … word got out that she was going to testify.”
Feil’s family has since been seeking justice over the murder of their relative and was even present at South Africa’s truth and reconciliation commission on numerous occasions.
Maxwell and his group SAIMR were identified in 1998 when Archbishop Desmond Tutu presented the work of the South African truth commission, according to records.
The movement was subsequently described by British researcher Susan Williams in the book “Who Killed Hammarskjöld?” which looked into theories surrounding the death of the Secretary-General.
Maxwell died in 2006. Records state that the film sought after his widow, who debunked claims that her husband had been involved in secret military operations.
Cold Case Hammarskjöld will be released in Denmark on February 2.
Below is a short clip from the film: