updated 5/14/2005 8:58:21 AM ET 2005-05-14T12:58:21

More than 13.5 tons of cocaine stored in underground chambers was seized near Colombia’s southwest coast, authorities said Friday.

The cocaine was discovered Thursday in the jungle in Narino state, which lies along the Pacific coast and the Ecuador border. Five people were arrested.

“We believe this is the biggest storage area of cocaine in the world,” Navy Capt. Jairo Pena said Friday.

The seizure — one of the largest in recent years — represents more than 3 percent of what the U.S. government says is Colombia’s annual potential cocaine output of 430 tons.

Gen. Jorge Daniel Castro, chief of the Colombian National Police, said the cocaine belonged to right-wing paramilitary forces and leftist rebels. The groups are bitter enemies but have been known to occasionally cooperate in drug trafficking to earn huge profits.

“When committing a crime for economic reasons, they take advantage of any opportunity in search of means for financing terrorism,” Soto said.

Narino is one of Colombia’s prime cocaine-producing regions. Colombia produces the vast majority of the world’s cocaine.

In 2004, the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy seized 28 tons of cocaine from two fishing boats off the coast of the Galapagos Islands.

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