US and Mexican law enforcement officers have found two separate tunnels dug under the border between the countries, possibly by drug cartels, over the last two days, authorities announced Thursday.
The tunnel discovered by Mexican army on Wednesday began under a bathroom sink inside a warehouse in Tijuana and extended 200 yards toward a warehouse in San Diego district in California, state. But it was unfinished and did not breach the border into San Diego.
The tunnel found by US drug-enforcement officials on Thursday was a sophisticated one fitted with lighting and ventilation systems. The tunnel, measuring about 240 yards, ran beneath the border at a depth of 16 meters.
It linked an ice plant in the Mexican town of San Luis Rio Colorado to a storage room, described as a "nondescript building" by US officials, in San Luis - a small town in far western Arizona. It is said to be much more sophisticated that other such smuggling tunnels discovered in the past.
"When you see what is there and the way they designed it, it wasn't something that your average miner could put together. You would need someone with some engineering expertise to put something together like this," said Douglas Coleman, special agent in charge of the Phoenix division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Coleman said three people were arrested in the raid that led to the discovery of the Arizona tunnel, and added that the tunnel would have cost an estimated $1.5 million for its builders. He also expressed doubts that the tunnel might have been constructed by Mexico's infamous Sinaloa cartel.
"Another cartel wasn't going to roll into that area and put down that kind of money in Sinaloa territory. Nobody is going to construct this tunnel without significant cartel leadership knowing what's going on," he noted.
The Sinaloa cartel, based in Mexico's Pacific coast, is currently one of the most powerful organized criminal gangs in the Americas. Cartel leader Guzman is Mexico's most wanted drug lord and has been on the run since he escaped from a Mexican prison ten years ago. The US had declared a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture.
With US authorities tightening security along the country's nearly 2,000-mile southern border with Mexico in recent years, drug cartels in Mexico have been increasingly depending on such cross-border tunnels for smuggling heroin, marijuana and other drugs into the country.
According to DEA figures, some 89 such cross-border tunnels have been discovered in the state of Arizona and 50 in California since 1990. Police from both sides of the border say such tunnels are typically used for smuggling drugs and illegal migrants to the US and arms to Mexico.
by RTT Staff Writer
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