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Dutch, US forces seize cocaine in Caribbean

By Andrew O. Selsky
The Associated Press

In this image released by the Dutch Navy, the Netherlands West-Indies Guard Ship HNLMS Van Speijk, left, sits alongside a freighter caught smuggling cocaine, in the Caribbean Sea, south of Puerto Rico, Monday, Aug. 18, 2008. A combined U.S. and Dutch counter-drug operation netted 4.6 tons (4,200 kilograms) of cocaine, seized from a Panamanian flagged freighter that had set sail from Venezuela. The Dutch Navy said Friday that it was the largest haul of cocaine it has ever intercepted. (AP Photo)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The Dutch Navy and a squad of U.S. Coast Guard raiders seized 4.6 tons (4,200 kilograms) of cocaine from a Panamanian-flagged freighter that had set sail from Venezuela, Dutch and U.S. officials said Friday.

The Dutch Navy said it is the largest haul of cocaine it has ever intercepted.

"This seizure underlines the excellent cooperation between all our partners in the region and once again confirms the importance of our presence in the Caribbean," said Rear Adm. Peter Lenselink, the commander of Netherlands Forces in the Caribbean.

The Dutch Navy said its regional headquarters in Curacao received information last week that a Panamanian freighter might be smuggling drugs from Venezuela to Europe. A Dutch coast guard vessel, with about a half-dozen members of a U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement detachment aboard, was dispatched to intercept the freighter.

At dawn on Sunday, the Dutch frigate and its helicopter approached the freighter at high speed in the Caribbean south of Puerto Rico on Sunday, the Dutch Navy said.

A U.S. Coast Guard team boarded and began searching. Thirty-six hours later, it discovered a suspicious hatch inside the engine room, with bales of cocaine secreted in several compartments.

U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement detachments have been embedding with forces of allied countries to seize drug shipments through the Caribbean, a major trafficking corridor, said Petty Officer Jennifer Johnson, a Coast Guard spokeswoman in Miami.

She said the Americans were still aboard the Dutch ship, along with the detained freighter crew and the seized cocaine.

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