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700 CUBANS END OCCUPATION OF OIL TANKER

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About 700 Cubans who had occupied an oil tanker to flee to the United States left the ship voluntarily, the Cuban government said.

The Greek company that owns the ship confirmed that the occupation ended Monday but said 1,000 people, not 700, had stormed it in the port of Mariel, 25 miles west of Havana, on Sunday.The takeover of the Jussara appeared to be the largest attempt to flee Cuba since the 1980 Mariel boatlift, when 125,000 people sailed from the port to Florida over six months.

It also followed a series of dramatic, often violent seizures of ferries and tugboats by would-be refugees that led to an Aug. 5 riot in Havana and a threat by President Fidel Castro to allow unrestricted emigration for the first time since 1980.

The would-be refugees took advantage of a security lapse when police guarding the ship left to attend a ceremony honoring a lieutenant killed last week by Cubans who hijacked a gunboat and fled to the United States.

Cuba's Prensa Latina news agency quoted the Interior Ministry as saying the captain and some crew members of the tanker were under investigation.

The company that owns the ship, Jussara Shipping Company Ltd. Piraeus, denied the captain was being questioned but said several Cuban crew members were taken into custody on suspicion of aiding and abetting the people who rushed the tanker.

The company's managing director, Ioannis Baxevinos, said the company had been in contact with the ship throughout the occupation. He said the tanker was registered in Malta and the officers were Greek and the crew was Cuban.

Mariel residents told reporters the captain said he was ready to carry people to the United States.

Castro himself visited the scene earlier Monday, underscoring how seriously Cuban authorities viewed the seizure.

Tugboat operators in Mariel pinned the vessel to the docks and those aboard realized they would be unable to leave, the ministry said.