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Ecuador drug bust nets plane, drugs, 9 suspects

QUITO, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) -- Ecuador's Anti-Narcotics Police on Thursday seized a plane, drugs, and arrested nine people suspected of drug trafficking, as part of a wide-reaching operation, Ecuadorian Interior Minister Jose Serrano said.

The aircraft was allegedly being used to fly drugs into Central America, a common distribution point for cocaine and other illicit substances destined for the U.S. and European markets, authorities believe.

Serrano said via Twitter that two of the detained were Mexican pilots charged with flying the small plane, which was found in Ayangue, in the Ecuadorian coastal province of Santa Elena.

The pilots were arrested at a different location, after intelligence led authorities to a house in Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city and capital of Guayas province, where the two were hiding out.

Ecuador's Gama TV reported that officials also found passports, cash and a GPS watch at the residence.

The operation also led to the seizure of 500 packets of cocaine in Puerto Inca, in Guayas province, which were set to be loaded onto the plane, said Serrano.

According to local press reports, the arrests were made at several locations, including Guayas, Santa Elena and Santo Domingo de los Tsachilas.

The pilots told police that mechanical failures forced a hard landing in Ayangue. They abandoned the aircraft afterward.

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