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Former president exhumed as Chile aims to solve mystery of his death

Salvador Allende is officially supposed to have committed suicide during a couple 37-years ago but others believe he was killed by forces loyal to Augusto Pinochet who succeeded him and ruled for 17 brutal years.

Salvador Allende's daughter Isabel places a flag on the coffin of her father's exhumed coffin.
Salvador Allende's daughter Isabel places a flag on the coffin of her father's exhumed coffin.
Image: Poder Judicial/AP/Press Association Images

INVESTIGATORS IN CHILE have exhumed the body of former president Salvador Allende in a bid to discover how he died during a coup d’etat in 1973.

Allende died during the coup in September 1973 that led to the emergence of Augusto Pinochet and his 17-years of dictatorial rule in which over 3,000 people disappeared or were murdered.

Allende was officially thought to have committed suicide – with a rifle given to him by Cuban revolutionary Fidel Catro – in order to avoid capture by his opponents.

But others believe the Socialist Party leader may have been killed by forces loyal to Pinochet.

The exhumation is seen as an attempt by Chile to lay its dark past to rest, Bloomberg reports.

It is part of an official investigation into 726 alleged rights abuses cases that investigators in Chile are examining with widespread, non-partisan political support for the probe.

Salvador Allende speaking in 1973 shortly before his death (AP Photo)

In an attempt to solve the mystery of how Allende met his end, his coffin was exhumed yesterday for a second autopsy that is hoped will establish whether he shot himself in the head as per the official line. Or whether he was killed by the military and it was covered up, BBC News reports.

The New York Times reports that the fact Allende took his life rather than surrender is seen as a source of pride rather than shame by many of his supporters in Chile.

But it notes the toll Allende’s legend has taken on his surviving family with daughter Isabel Allende – now a senator – seeing her sister, aunt and son all take their own lives in the 37-years since.

Allende’s bone fragments will now be studied to determine how many weapons were involved in his death in a bid to determine the cause.

- additional reporting from AP

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Hugh O'Connell

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