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Border drug-smuggling tunnel is length of four football fields

November 17, 2011 |  7:54 am

A drug tunnel under the U.S.-Mexico border where authorities discovered 17 tons of marijuana ran the length of four football fields and was equipped with lights and a ventilation system, officials said.

The tunnel, discovered Tuesday, also led authorities to a large pot-growing operation east of San Diego.

The tunnel opening in Tijuana was found in an unfinished industrial building near the airport, where Mexican soldiers on Wednesday morning stood guard in front of some eight tons of neatly stacked marijuana bundles.

Many were labeled with pictures of Captain America, the symbol used by a major operator of the Sinaloa drug cartel in Tijuana, Mexican Gen. Gilberto Landeros Briseno said in an interview with Mexican media.

The Sinaloa drug cartel is Mexico's most powerful organized crime group and has a long history of constructing drug tunnels in San Diego. U.S. agents didn't provide details on the source of the drugs but said the investigation is ongoing and involves coordination with the Mexican military.

"The drug cartels mistakenly believe they can elude detection by taking their contraband underground, but again and again, we've been able to find these tunnels and shut them down," said Derek Benner, special agent in charge for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which heads the San Diego-based multiagency tunnel task force.

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-- Richard Marosi

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