By Jorge Rueda
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
CARACAS, Venezuela _ Venezuela’s military confirmed on Friday that it shot down over the Caribbean Sea a small civilian plane believed to be carrying drugs, and officials on the neighbouring island nation of Aruba said packets of cocaine were found in the waters where the craft went down.
Venezuelan Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino defended Thursday’s shoot-down, saying the plane had entered his country’s airspace without permission and didn’t respond to orders to land immediately. He said the plane was heading from Central America and was shot down 25 nautical miles off the coast near Aruba.
He didn’t provide any information about those who were on board.
Authorities in Aruba, which is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, said the U.S.-registered aircraft crashed in the island’s territorial waters.
Leading prosecutor Eric Olthof said Friday that 400 packages holding cocaine were found near the crash site. He said some human remains also were recovered but it was too early to determine how many people were aboard the plane or who they were.
Venezuela has shot down a number of suspected drug-trafficking planes in recent year, mostly over the western portion of the country.
The country is a major transit zone for cocaine coming over the border from Colombia en route to the U.S. and Europe.