US Anti-Drug Radar Support to Honduras Suspended after Incident

After the Honduran Air Force shot down two suspected drug planes in violation of U.S. agreements, the State Department suspended sharing of radar intelligence with the Central American nation.

The decision came after two separate incidents in July, when civilian aircraft were shot down off the coast of northern Honduras, said William Ostick, Western Hemispheric Affairs Office spokesman. The U.S. bilateral agreement with Honduras for information sharing exclusively prohibits shooting down civilian aircraft.

"We don't have information about the occupants or the cargo," Ostick said.

The State Department and Drug Enforcement Administration agents ran a joint operation with Honduran forces until mid-July going after planes carrying cocaine into the country. It wasn't clear Friday if the planes were shot down during the joint operation.

President Porfirio Lobo said Thursday he replaced the head of the Honduran Air Force in August because of one shoot-down that did occur under the joint offensive known as Operation Anvil. He denied it was because of U.S. pressure.

Ostick also said there was no pressure to replace the Air Force chief but that the U.S. is reviewing Honduran drug-interdiction procedures and protocols to prevent future incidents.

U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Lisa Kubiske "expressed our grave concern to senior Honduran officials and asked for a full account from the Honduran government on these two incidents," Ostick said. "She has insisted and we have insisted on the implementation of a series of remedial measure to assure this does not happen again."

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

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