SAN DIEGO – Mexican authorities said Thursday they seized about 10 tons of marijuana in an elaborate tunnel with a rail car system that extended well into San Diego and was designed to smuggle drugs into the U.S. from Tijuana.
The discovery on Wednesday marks one of the longest and more sophisticated clandestine tunnels found on the U.S.-Mexico border.
The passage was 3 meters deep and about 800 meters long — about three-quarters of that distance in Tijuana and the rest in San Diego. It was lit, ventilated and built with metal beams to prevent collapse.
It was unclear whether any drugs got through the tunnel or if it had an exit yet in the U.S.
Lauren Mack, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, declined comment.
It was also unclear which drug trafficking organization began the engineering feat.
The region is largely controlled by Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, whose leader, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, escaped from a maximum-security prison in Mexico in July through an elaborate tunnel.
Mexican police said in a press release about the drug tunnel that 16 people were detained on suspicion of drug trafficking and had told authorities that they had ties to a criminal group that operates in the state of Jalisco — an apparent reference to the Jalisco New Generation cartel, which controls that part of western Mexico.
The people detained were 21 to 50 and were caught off-guard when Mexican authorities arrived at a Tijuana warehouse with a search warrant, police said. No shots were fired.
The drugs were wrapped in 873 packages covered with plastic and tape, police said.
Dozens of tunnels have been found along the U.S.-Mexico border in recent years — the most sophisticated equipped with hydraulic lifts and electric rail cars.
The San Diego-Tijuana region is popular because its clay-like soil is easy to dig with shovels and pneumatic tools, and both sides of the border have warehouses that provide cover for trucks and heavy equipment.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5