PANAMA CITY Feb 15 A North Korean ship detained
near the Panama Canal for smuggling Cuban weapons set sail back
for the Caribbean island on Saturday with most of its crew on
board after it paid a fine, the government said.
The Chong Chon Gang ship was seized in July for smuggling
Soviet-era arms, including two MiG-21 jet fighters, under
thousands of tonnes of sugar.
Thirty-two sailors in good health were on the ship when it
left the country's Colon port Saturday morning, Panama's foreign
ministry said in an emailed statement. The captain and two other
officers remain jailed on weapons trafficking charges.
The ship was released after paying two-thirds of a $1
million fine imposed after two MiG-21 aircraft, 15 MiG engines
and nine anti-aircraft missiles were found hidden beneath its
declared cargo of sugar.
After the discovery, Cuba acknowledged it was sending
"obsolete" Soviet-era weapons to be repaired in North Korea and
returned to Cuba.
(Reporting by Lomi Kriel; Editing by Bernard Orr)