November 30, 2011 (Otay Mesa)--A drug tunnel discovered Tuesday between Tijuana and San Diego was described by U.S. authorities as one of the most elaborate ever found beneath the U.S.—Mexico border. The passageway, the second major one uncovered in the past two weeks, connected a warehouse in Mexico to another in Otay Mesa.
“It’s one of the most sophisticated tunnels we’ve ever discovered,” said Lauren Mack, spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. "It’s got a number of features that were used to facilitate the smuggling." She said details of the tunnel’s construction would be forthcoming Wednesday.
This image provided by the San Diego Tunnel Task Force shows the entrance to a cross-border tunnel in Tijuana on Tuesday Nov. 29, 2011, the latest in a spate of secret passages found to smuggle drugs from Mexico.
The tunnel’s exit was discovered Tuesday morning by members of the San Diego Tunnel Task Force inside a warehouse near the end of Cactus Road.
On the Mexican side, police and military authorities hours later traced the tunnel's start to a white, unmarked warehouse just southwest of the A.L. Rodriguez International Airport in Tijuana.
Mexican soldiers guarded the entrance to the tunnel throughout the late afternoon and into the evening. The warehouse is situated on Avenida Fuerza Aerea, a bustling two-lane street that has a blend of small warehouses, administrative buildings and government facilities, including the military airport and offices for the federal police.
Authorities said the tunnel is about 600 yards long. They declined to specify how much marijuana they have seized in the tunnel or warehouses.
U.S. and Mexican officials have planned news conferences for Wednesday morning and afternoon.
This latest tunnel is the seventh major one found in the past five years along San Diego's border with Mexico, Mack said.
With greater enforcement at the border, she said, “We know (the cartels) are going underground and building more tunnels. At the same time, we have a very active task force that’s very aggressively pursuing it.”
The San Diego Tunnel Task Force includes agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration, ICE, the Border Patrol and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Along the entire U.S.-Mexico border, there have been well over 100 cross-border tunnels found in the past decade, Mack said. Most of them had not been built out completely, she added.
On Nov. 15, the tunnel task force culminated a months-long investigation by finding a tunnel in Otay Mesa that was 400 yards long with lighting and ventilation.
U.S. and Mexican authorities confiscated more than 20 tons of marijuana in or near that passageway, which began in a warehouse east of the Tijuana international airport and ended in another warehouse in Otay Mesa.
Gen. Gilberto Landeros, commander of Baja California’s Second Military Zone, linked that marijuana stash to the Sinaloa cartel, the largest and most powerful drug-trafficking organization in Mexico.