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Huge US-Mexico drugs tunnel found

BBC News BBC News 21/04/2016
An elevator inside the drugs tunnel stretching from Mexico to San Diego (20 April 2016) © AP An elevator inside the drugs tunnel stretching from Mexico to San Diego (20 April 2016)

One of the longest cross-border drugs-smuggling tunnels between Mexico and the US has been found by authorities in San Diego, American officials say.

A border patrol special operations supervisor next to the entrance of a tunnel leading to Mexico from a lot along the border (20 April 2016): The entrance to the tunnel on the American side was hidden under a big bin © AP The entrance to the tunnel on the American side was hidden under a big bin

They say the 800m (874 yards) tunnel was used to transport an "unprecedented cache" of cocaine and marijuana.

US Attorney Laura Duffy speaks during a news conference to announce the drugs seizure in a lot alongside the border with Mexico (20 April 2016): District Attorney Laura Duffy said smugglers were using the tunnel to transport large quantities of cocaine and marijuana © AP District Attorney Laura Duffy said smugglers were using the tunnel to transport large quantities of cocaine and marijuana

It was the 13th sophisticated secret tunnel found along California's border with Mexico since 2006.

Map © BBC Map

But a local official described it as "ingenious" and unlike anything seen before.

Interior of the drugs tunnel (20 April 2016): The tunnel is the latest in a series that have been discovered on the US-Mexico border © AP The tunnel is the latest in a series that have been discovered on the US-Mexico border

Three have been found on the same short street in San Diego that runs parallel to a border fence with Mexico.

In the latest incident about 1,016kg (2,242lb) of cocaine and 6,350kg of marijuana suspected of being transported through the tunnel was seized, officials say.

"This is the largest cocaine seizure ever associated with a tunnel," Southern California District Attorney Laura Duffy said, and is the second "super tunnel" to be discovered in recent weeks,

In March, authorities uncovered a 380m tunnel that ran from a restaurant in Mexico to a house in California.

The latest tunnel ran at a depth of 14m (46ft) from the bottom of an elevator shaft built into a house in Tijuana to a hole in the ground on the American side enclosed within a fenced-in lot set up as a pallet business.

The hole was hidden under a trailer-sized rubbish bin that smugglers used to move the drugs from the lot, federal officials said.

"They put the drugs in the dumpster and then hauled the dumpster to another location to unload it," Ms Duffy said.

Federal agents followed a truck that took the bin to a central San Diego location about 40km (25 miles) north of the border and witnessed the cargo being loaded onto a box truck, which drove away.

San Diego County sheriff's deputies then stopped the truck and seized the drugs, arresting three men in the process.

Ms Duffy said that federal agents searching the pallet lot and the tunnel recovered additional supplies of marijuana and arrested three more suspects.

The tunnel used in the operation was sophisticated, The Los Angeles Times reported, and had a ventilation system and lighting. On the Tijuana side, the tunnel was connected to an elevator that ascended into the house.

"I think it fair to say that few would suspect that traffickers were moving multi-ton quantities of cocaine and marijuana in this very unassuming way, in full view of the world around them," the paper quoted Ms Duffy as saying.

"It's a rabbit hole,'' she said of the latest tunnel to be found.

"Just the whole way that it comes up right out into the open is a bit ingenious. It's something completely different than what we've seen before."

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