A North Korean registered ship has been seized in Panama by drug enforcement officials, acting on a tip-off.
Hidden in containers under the cargo of sugar, Panamian authorities claim was a cache of ballistic missiles.
Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli said the ship had been headed for North Korea.
He said: “It’s extremely sophisticated. It appears that these are aerial or defense missiles. We don’t know what’s in the other containers but we will have to take out all the sugar to determine what’s inside this ship. Panama is a peaceful country. Not one of war. This is something we were alerted to by Panamanian intelligence.”
The ship’s 35-man crew reacted violently to enforcement officers, further raising suspicions. The captain suffered a heart attack during the operation and later tried to commit suicide. The crew are being held in Cuban police custody.
Presidential spokesman Luis Eduardo Camacho said later that “at first glance” the cargo appeared to include missiles, but an examination of the ship by specialists may take as long as a week.