[UPDATE 11:20 a.m. EDT] Hugh Griffiths of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute told the Associated Press the ship was once caught carrying narcotics and small arms. The institute earlier this year reported to the United Nations a suspicious flight from Cuba to North Korea via central Africa.
Original story begins here:
Panama President Ricardo Martinelli says authorities searching ships passing through the Panama Canal discovered “undeclared war cargo” in a shipment of brown sugar heading from Cuba to North Korea.
The president posted on Monday evening local time a photo on his official Twitter account of a large green metal object inside a shipping container.
“Panama captured North Korean flagged ship from Cuba with undeclared war cargo,” he said on the post. “Material came hidden in containers underneath the cargo of sugar,” he added in an ensuing post.
If the object in the photo turns out to be some type of heavy ordnance or missile, it would be a violation of United Nations sanctions against the rogue state that bans imports or exports of military hardware.
Spanish-language La Prensa news service reported Tuesday morning that the country’s antinarcotics chief Javier Caraballo said the crew of the ship named Chong Chon Gang behaved “reluctant and warlike” when authorities boarded the vessel, which he said had a history of carrying “illicit substances.” The ship was stopped on the Caribbean end of the canal at the Manzanillo International Terminal, according to the BBC.
Authorities have started a thorough search of the ship. Thirty-five crew members were detained. The ship’s captain reportedly attempted to commit suicide but was stopped.