Police find tunnel under Arizona-Mexico border

TUCSON, Arizona Mon May 9, 2011 8:56pm EDT

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TUCSON, Arizona (Reuters) - U.S. border police have found a sophisticated smugglers' tunnel fitted with lights, water pumps and a ventilation system running under the Arizona border from Mexico, authorities said on Monday.

The U.S. Border Patrol's Tucson sector said the tunnel ran 250 feet under the border from an abandoned building in Nogales, Mexico, to the namesake city of Nogales, Arizona, at a depth of 15 feet.

It was discovered on May 2 by U.S. Border Patrol agents, in an investigation that subsequently involved the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the government of Mexico.

"This tunnel is more sophisticated than other recently discovered tunnels," Chief Patrol Agent Randy Hill said in a statement.

"They chiseled through solid rock and then installed electricity, lighting, water pumps, and ventilation. It is a prime example of the risks traffickers will take and the lengths they will go to smuggle contraband into our country," he added.

Arizona straddles a heavily trafficked route for powerful Mexican cartels smuggling marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines north to the United States to meet voracious demand for drugs.

As security has been tightened along the shared border in recent years, drug smugglers have increasingly gone underground to try and evade detection.

At least eight tunnels have been found running beneath the streets of the two Nogales since the start of the U.S. federal government's fiscal year on October 1, Tucson sector Border Patrol spokesman Jason Rheinfrank said.

(Reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Jerry Norton)

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