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Feds smoke out largest drug tunnel yet

Two tons of marijuana found in U.S.-Mexico passageway

From Kevin Bohn
CNN Washington Bureau

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Mexico
Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Authorities have found what they call the largest and most sophisticated tunnel running into the United States along the Mexican border.

The tunnel contained 2 tons of marijuana, stacked in bales, according to a statement issued by the Justice Department.

DEA and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents discovered the tunnel Wednesday night. It runs from Tijuana, Mexico, to Otay Mesa, California. (Watch scenes from the Tijuana pot tunnel -- 1:40)

Officials said the tunnel is about seven-tenths of a mile (1,148 meters) or more than 1,200 yards long. Initial reports said it is 5 feet high and 3.5 feet wide.

Authorities said they believe the passageway originates under a warehouse about 150 yards south of the border and surfaces about a half-mile north of the border in another warehouse.

Made of concrete, the passageway had lighting, electricity, ventilation and a pump to remove water, said Lauren Mack, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Most of the marijuana was uncovered on the Mexican side, but some of it was in the United States, Mack said.

"It's definitely expected to be related to a major drug cartel in Mexico," she said. No arrests have been made.

An investigation is under way to determine who built the passageway.

Mack said human intelligence led to the discovery of the underground structure. Agents then used ground-penetrating radar technology from the military to find anomalies in the soil, she said.

Earlier this month, U.S. border patrol agents investigating a caved-in road discovered another tunnel between Mexico and the United States, west of the San Ysidro, California, port of entry.

It was the third such tunnel found in three years near the San Ysidro port, Mack said. Others were discovered in 2003 and 2004, she said.

"We found trash and other evidence indicating people had been inside recently," Mack said in a phone interview January 11, describing the passage as "primitive." (Full story)

Tightened border security since the September 11, 2001, attacks is the likely cause for the increase in the tunneling, Mack said.

More than 20 cross-border tunnels have been uncovered in California and Arizona since 9/11, she added.

"We've now got a dedicated tunnel task force, which works with the DEA and border patrol to proactively look for tunnels," Mack said.

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