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Smuggling tunnel found near U.S. border

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'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By The Associated Press
Friday, Dec. 28, 2012, 6:48 p.m.
 

MEXICO CITY — Mexican authorities have discovered a sophisticated smuggling tunnel equipped with electricity and ventilation not far from the Nogales port of entry into Arizona, U.S. and Mexican officials said on Friday.

The Mexican army said the tunnel was found the day before when authorities received an anonymous call in the border city. U.S. law enforcement officials confirmed the existence of the elaborate, football field-long tunnel.

Border Patrol spokesman Victor Brabble said the tunnel did not cross into the United States.

The army said the anonymous caller was reporting gunmen standing outside a two-story house in a hilly neighborhood near the international bridge where motorists travel between Mexico and the United States.

Inside the house, soldiers discovered a fake wall inside a storage closet under a staircase that led to a dark room with buckets and clothes. Under a drain cover in that room, soldiers found another staircase at the entrance of the tunnel that went 16 feet underground and measured a yard in diameter. Light bulbs lit the underground passage and pipes stretched across the 120-yard tunnel that Mexican army officials believe was built to smuggle drugs.

More than 70 such tunnels have been found since October 2008, most of them concentrated along the border in California and Arizona. In Nogales, Arizona, smugglers tap into vast underground drainage canals.

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