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Spanish official details high seas drama

Spanish Defense Minister Federico Trillo
Spanish Defense Minister Federico Trillo

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MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- Spanish Defense Minister Federico Trillo on Wednesday described the events leading up to the dramatic seizure of a shipment of Scud missiles by Spanish special forces, who boarded the North Korean ship by helicopter and inflatable boat.

A partial transcript of Trillo's news conference follows:

TRILLO: The events took place as follows: On the fifth of December, the intelligence services of the U.S. obtained information on the fact that there was a suspicious vessel, which they thought was illegally trading in arms, navigating near our waters. And they felt that it was going to navigate in waters under supervision of (the) task force.

So, on the fifth of December, our frigate identified the vessel. It is the Korean ship So San. It is in the international coalition's database and is identified therein as a suspicious vessel. The aircraft, a Spanish aircraft, Petro Serbian, also identified the vessel and contributed in this operation.

The Spanish Ministry of Defense and the army is very grateful to our air force for their help.

So, the Enduring Freedom coalition and a U.S. admiral asked the task force to help intercept this suspicious vessel and see what cargo it was carrying. The Spanish rear admiral, Moreno, sent a Spanish frigate, Navarra, and another vessel, Patino, to intercept this suspicious vessel.

They also requested (that the) Spanish government approve any measures that they felt might be needed in order to intercept the vessel the following day, or rather, on the seventh of December.

The government, through all parties involved in the navy and the army, approved any measures that might need to be taken, and interception then was carried out by the Spanish frigate Navarra. This operation was called "Socotora."

On the ninth of December, on Monday at dawn, interception of the Korean ship So San took place. It carried a Cambodian banner registered in Phnom Penh, even though it was navigating without a banner.

An investigation took place, the crew was questioned, as was the captain, and by radio the captain indicated that (the ship) was carrying cement. They did not allow the crew of the frigate to board and to see what the ship was indeed carrying. It accelerated and tried to speed off, and would not allow crew members of the Spanish frigate or the accompanying vessel to board.

A special units force boards ship from helicopter.
A special units force boards ship from helicopter.

So we needed to use a helicopter in order to try and board the craft. We had to be very careful with the masts and the cables on the vessel ...

A special units force from the navy was sent. They were, in fact, already aboard the Patino vessel. So we decided to use the "fast rope" approach, and we did this successfully. There were no injuries, and there were no victims.

A second team also boarded following the first intervention. We looked at the cargo, which was cement, but underneath this cement we found a series of containers that contained arms or weapons ...

North American ships then reached the Korean ship. We have a technical team from the U.S., a part of the coalition. A detailed inspection of the cargo is being carried out. And this has to be done very carefully indeed.

So in the containers there are sophisticated weapons, and included in the weapons that we have found are a series of Scud missiles. There are other weapons that still need to be identified. And this will be done as soon as the very exhaustive investigation under way is concluded.

This morning, the ship and its cargo were being inspected in a detailed fashion by the coalition troops. So this is how the operation was carried out in the framework of Operation Enduring Freedom.



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