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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 April 2007, 04:57 GMT 05:57 UK
US in record maritime drugs haul
US coast guards watch over a cocaine haul unloaded in California
Officials are claiming a temporary victory over the drug cartels
The US Coast Guard says it has seized nearly 20 tonnes of cocaine with a street value of $600m, in the biggest maritime drugs bust in US history.

The drugs haul, unloaded in California on Monday, was seized in a raid last month off the coast of Central America.

Officials said they intercepted a cargo ship sailing under the Panamanian flag, and that the 14 crew - Panamanians and Mexicans - put up no resistance.

The find came late at night following a tip-off from an intelligence source.

"It was the largest bust in US history. It's the largest interdiction on the ocean," said Lieutenant Brock Eckel, one of the officers involved in the drugs seizure.

"It was very exciting, of course. Fifteen guys moved 20 tonnes of contraband in five hours, so it was very exhausting," he said.

Popular route

The BBC's Will Grant in Miami says the amount of drugs seized and their potential street value will have affected the operations of some drug traffickers.

However, the coast guard and the drug enforcement agencies in the US acknowledge that this is just a temporary victory against the cartels, our correspondent reports.

They say that the drug route into the western seaboard of the US via the Pacific Ocean has becoming increasingly popular with trafficking gangs.

With powerful drug cartels operating in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and Colombia it is unlikely the street price and availability of cocaine in the US will have been affected.

Panama seizes huge cocaine stash
20 Mar 07 |  Americas
Key Farc role in US cocaine trade
12 Feb 07 |  Americas
Cuba deports suspected drug baron
09 Feb 07 |  Americas

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