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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, January 17, 2013 5:51 pm

At least 1 dead in US-backed drug raid in Honduras

The Associated Press

At least one suspected drug trafficker died in the first U.S.-supported anti-narcotics raid in Honduras following a five-month suspension in radar intelligence sharing between the countries, authorities said.

The cooperation was halted after the Honduran air force shot down two suspected drug planes in violation of agreements with Washington.

The Honduran navy said late Wednesday that one of three Jamaican men on a go-fast boat carrying 350 kilograms (772 pounds) of cocaine died when a Honduran coast guard vessel rammed the craft before dawn about 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) off the country's northern coast.

Rear Adm. Rigoberto Espinal said one of the other Jamaicans jumped into the sea and disappeared, but his fate had not been confirmed. The third man was detained.

The Jamaicans "did not put up any armed resistance, but we had to ram the boat with a coast guard vessel, with the unfortunate result that one of the crew members died," Espinal said. "The other was detained and the third jumped into the sea. They usually throw their weapons into the sea when we arrive."

"The survivor has already been interrogated by DEA agents who are with us," Espinal said.

Dawn Dearden, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, said there was no DEA involvement in the operation.

Espinal also said DEA agents did not participate directly in the raid. "The United States informed us of the boat's location by radar ... and we started the chase," he said.

"This is the first successful anti-drug operation since the re-establishment of the radar signals by the United States," Espinal said.

He estimated that as many as five tons of drugs may have passed through Honduras in each of the five months that the radar system was suspended.

The United States resumed radar intelligence sharing in late November. It stopped sharing radar data in August because the Honduran air force shot down two suspected drug planes in violation of agreements intended to prevent deaths in such operations.