Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Border tunnel, with elevator, discovered

San Diego Union-Tribune
December 2, 2009
by Sandra Dibble

A cross-border tunnel equipped with an elevator and lighting and electrical systems was discovered Wednesday just west of the Otay Mesa Point of Entry, federal authorities said.

Acting on a tip received by U.S. officials, Mexican authorities found the tunnel and arrested at least 12 people inside, authorities said.

The tunnel, which did not yet have an opening on the U.S. side, was about 1,000 feet long, 860 feet of which were in the United States. It was about 90 to 100 feet deep in some areas.

No arrests have been made in the United States. Officials estimate the tunnel may have been under construction for about two years.

On Wednesday afternoon, Mexican soldiers could be seen guarding a warehouse in an industrial area located about one kilometer west of the Otay Mesa border crossing. The building, made out of blocks and painted beige, abuts the border fence.

On the U.S. side, tractor trailers can be seen driving next to the fence. The nearest building is several hundred feet away.

About 120 cross-border tunnels have been discovered and dismantled along the Southwest border. Smugglers have been digging under the border for decades to avoid detection. Officials said they have seen a spike since 9/11 when heightened enforcement along the border forced smugglers to come up with alternative ways to move contraband.

The tunnels have also become increasingly sophisticated, with elevators to lower large amounts of contraband and ventilation systems so workers can spend hours underground.

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