November 22, 2011 / 11:16 PM / 6 years ago

Third tunnel in a week found under U.S.-Mexico border

TUCSON, Arizona (Reuters) - Border police in Nogales, Arizona, uncovered a drug smuggling tunnel from Mexico, the latest in a spate of illicit passageways found under the border in recent days.

The U.S. Border Patrol said the 319-foot long tunnel was discovered on Monday. It measured three feet wide by two feet tall, and ran for 100 feet into Mexico at a depth of about 20 feet.

It was chiseled through solid rock and was equipped with electricity, lighting, water pumps, and held up by support beams and plywood shoring, the Border Patrol’s Tucson sector said in a news release.

While securing the tunnel, agents also found 26 bundles of marijuana weighing more than 430 pounds. One suspect was arrested by authorities in Mexico, Border Patrol agent Colleen Agle said.

The tunnel was the third discovered running under the porous U.S.-Mexico border in less than a week, and the 21st illicit passageway found beneath the streets of Nogales in the past two years.

Last Wednesday Authorities in California announced the find of an underground passageway that stretched 400 yards to an industrial park south of San Diego from Tijuana, Mexico. They seized more than 17 tons of marijuana and arrested two men.

The same day, authorities in Nogales found another smaller passageway beneath the porch of a house that ran 70 feet from a drain in Nogales in Mexico.

Agle said Mexican smugglers are increasingly turning to tunneling in a bid to beat beefed-up border security in the city, where a tall, new steel border fence was completed earlier this year.

“As we have been putting more resources along the border in this area, we are really taking away a lot of the traditional avenues for smuggling contraband and illegal aliens,” Agle told Reuters.

She added that the majority of illicit passageways found under the city keyed into the extensive storm drain system that runs under the two Nogales, and contributes to making them such a hotspot for tunnelers.

“One of the things that (smugglers) are doing is exploiting the legitimate drainage system down here, and attempting to create illicit tunnels,” she added.

Editing by Greg McCune

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