US and Mexican authorities have unearthed a 240-yard-long drug smuggling tunnel under their joint border, the latest such find in the violence-scarred region, officials said Thursday.
The six feet high by two feet wide (1.8 meter by 0.6 meter) tunnel, equipped with lighting and ventilation, was discovered on Saturday when officers raided a business on the Arizona side of the border, which concealed the US entrance.
Three people were arrested, according to a statement about the US operation by federal and local law enforcement bodies.
The US raid was coordinated with the Mexican military, which entered an ice-making plant across the border, said the US statement.
The “sophisticated” tunnel, which was 55 feet underground, led from the Arizona town of San Luis to the ice plant across the border in Mexico in San Luis Rio Colorado.
The tunnel’s US entrance was located in a storage room hidden beneath a large water tank, in a one-story “non-descript” building. US authorities had been monitoring the business since January due to “suspicious activity.”
The discovery “is yet another reminder of how desperate these criminal organizations are and the extent they will go to further their drug dealing operations,” said Doug Coleman of the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
“The DEA continues to work with our counterparts nationally and internationally to bring to justice these drug trafficking organizations as well as to block their smuggling routes into this country,” he said.
Last November two major drug smuggling tunnels were found near the Mexican border with California in Tijuana, one of them 400 yards long and the other 600 yards in length.
Some 45,000 people have been killed since 2006, when Mexico launched a major military crackdown against the powerful drug cartels that have terrorized border communities as they have battled over lucrative smuggling routes.