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US authorities seize $180 million Colombian cocaine shipment

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U.S. authorities confiscated a $180 million shipment of cocaine from Colombian drug traffickers aboard a boat on the Pacific Ocean bound for the United States, the Colombian attorney general’s office said on Saturday.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) found 5.28 tonnes of the drug aboard the vessel, captured in international waters off Central America, said Alexandra Ladino, director of the attorney general’s specialized police force, which cooperated with the DEA on the operation.

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The Panamanian-flagged boat had earlier departed the Colombian port city of Buenaventura, Ladino said. The drugs belonged to a Colombian trafficking group, which she said would not be named for fear of compromising further investigations.

Fourteen crew members, from Colombia and other Latin American countries, were detained and will be processed in the United States, Ladino told reporters.

Colombia, a major cocaine producer, manufactures some 300 tonnes annually, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Authorities confiscated about 166 tonnes of the drug in 2014.

Marxist rebels, gangs made up of ex-paramilitaries and small cartels dominate much of Colombia’s narcotics trade. Cocaine and other drugs are some of the principal sources of financing for groups fighting in the country’s 50-year civil war, which has killed over 200,000 people.

(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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