16 Jul 2013

Panama seizes ‘military cargo’ from N Korea ship

Panama’s President Ricardo Martinelli says “undeclared military cargo” has been seized from a North Korean-flagged ship coming from Cuba as it approached the Panama canal.

Picture of suspected military cargo tweeted by Panama's president

The weapons, hidden in containers of brown sugar, were detected after Panama’s authorities stopped the ship, suspecting it was carrying drugs.

The vessel was pulled over near the port of Manzanillo on the Atlantic side of the canal.

The captain of the vessel tried to commit suicide after the ship was stopped, said President Martinelli, and authorities have detained some 35 crew members.

“We’re going to keep unloading the ship and figure out exactly what was inside,” Mr Martinelli told Panamanian television on Monday night.

“You cannot go around shipping undeclared weapons of war through the Panama Canal.”

The Panamanian president tweeted a picture of what appeared to be weapons.

A spokeswoman for the canal said she did not have any more information and referred questions to the attorney general. And the attorney general’s office did not immediately return requests for comment.

Javier Caraballo, Panama’s top anti-drugs prosecutor, told local television the ship was en route to North Korea.