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Police discover half-mile long drug tunnel running from Tijuana to San Diego

This Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015 photo released by Mexico's Federal Police shows an underground tunnel that police say was built to smuggle drugs from Tijuana, Mexico to San Diego in the United States. Mexican federal police said the tunnel extends about 2,600 feet (800 meters) and is lit, ventilated, equipped with a rail car system, and lined with metal beams to prevent collapse. (Mexico Federal Police via AP)

This Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015 photo released by Mexico's Federal Police shows an underground tunnel that police say was built to smuggle drugs from Tijuana, Mexico to San Diego in the United States. Mexican federal police said the tunnel extends about 2,600 feet (800 meters) and is lit, ventilated, equipped with a rail car system, and lined with metal beams to prevent collapse. (Mexico Federal Police via AP)

Mexican officials say they discovered one of the longest and more sophisticated tunnels ever found on the U.S.-Mexico border.

The tunnel is 9 feet deep and 2,600 feet long – a distance of about half a mile. It was lit, ventilated and had steel beams to shore up the walls and prevent a collapse.

Stretching from Tijuana to San Diego, the tunnel’s purpose was to smuggle drugs into the U.S., authorities said.

Sixteen people were arrested and 10 tons of marijuana seized in connection to the tunnel.

The massive tunnel was discovered in a Tijuana warehouse after authorities noticed “intense movement” of trucks entering and emerging from the building “apparently to deliver the drug for its transportation to the United States,” according to the San Diego Union Tribune.

It was unclear whether any drugs got through the tunnel or if it had an exit yet in the U.S.

Lauren Mack, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, declined to comment.

It was also unclear which drug trafficking organization began the engineering feat.

The region is largely controlled by Mexico's Sinaloa cartel, whose leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman escaped from a maximum-security prison in Mexico in July through an elaborate tunnel.

However, Mexican police said in a press release the people detained had ties to a criminal group that operates in the state of Jalisco — an apparent reference to the Jalisco New Generation cartel, which controls that part of western Mexico.

The people detained, ages 21 to 50, were caught off-guard when Mexican authorities arrived in the warehouse with a search warrant, police said. No shots were fired.

The drugs were wrapped in 873 packages covered with plastic and tape, police said.

Dozens of tunnels have been found along the U.S.-Mexico border in recent years — the most sophisticated equipped with hydraulic lifts and electric rail cars.

The San Diego-Tijuana region is popular because its clay-like soil is easy to dig with shovels and pneumatic tools, and both sides of the border have warehouses that provide cover for trucks and heavy equipment.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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