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Chilean President’s Death was Suicide, Autopsy Concludes

A new autopsy has determined that President Salvador Allende of Chile killed himself with an assault rifle, Chilean officials said Tuesday, dispelling doubts that have persisted for 37 years about the exact circumstances of his death, including whether troops storming the presidential palace had murdered him, the New York Times reports.

The forensic analysis, overseen by a team of Chilean and international experts, did not find any evidence that others were involved in Mr. Allende’s death, concluding that the head injuries he sustained were consistent with bullets fired from a single AK-47 assault rifle.

Even as leftist supporters like Fidel Castro declared that Mr. Allende died in a gun battle on Sept. 11, 1973, the day of the coup, his family members had long found credible the original autopsy and accounts of witnesses, including palace detectives and doctors, who said he had taken his own life before the military entered the palace.

But doubts had lingered, and in recent years some independent forensic experts had argued that there was evidence of a second bullet wound to Mr. Allende’s skull, raising the possibility that a second weapon may have been involved in his death.

In May, at the behest of a judge investigating 726 human rights cases related to Chile’s 17-year dictatorship, Mr. Allende’s remains were exhumed. After a thorough analysis, the forensic and anthropological team issued a 20-page report on Tuesday.

“We are in a position to assure that this was a violent death that was suicidal in nature,” said Dr. Francisco Etxeberría, a forensic expert appointed by the Allende family. “Of that we have absolutely no doubt.”