TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) – Mexican authorities say a recent raid near the desert border with Arizona resulted in two drug cartel suspects killed and 22 more arrested.
National Security commissioner Renato Sales says weeks of investigation led authorities to a property in Sonora state that was apparently being used to warehouse drugs and migrants for transport to the United States.
Sales said Monday that when federal police launched the raid by land and air, they came under fire from armed men guarding the site. Agents seized drugs and weapons.
Sales did not mention U.S. authorities' role in the cross-border sting, nor did he name the criminal organization to which the suspects are believed to belong.
U.S. officials said previously that 24 high-level members of the Sinaloa cartel were arrested in Friday's raid. According to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokeswoman, the operation was a highly secretive, daylong law enforcement cross-border affair.
The sting, known as Mexican Operation Diablo Express, took place all of Friday as numerous law enforcement agencies converged onto Lukeville, Arizona, which sits on the border with Mexico.
According to ICE, one of its units, Homeland Security Investigations, helped Mexican authorities nab 24 alleged members of the Sinaloa Cartel who were operating around Sonoyta, Mexico, and the U.S. border, ICE spokeswoman Gillian M. Christensen said.
The DEA, FBI, Customs and Border Protection and Arizona state and local agencies were on hand to assist.
"The targeted Sinaloa cell has been responsible for the importation of millions of pounds of illegal drugs, including marijuana, heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, into the United States from Mexico during its existence. The organization is also responsible for the smuggling of millions of dollars in U.S. currency, along with weapons, into Mexico," Christensen said over the weekend.
The operation was conducted "with utmost secrecy" and took all day Friday as numerous law enforcement officers worked in both Lukeville and Sonoyta, bordering cities that are on the route to the Puerto Peñasco, the popular beach destination many Americans know as Rocky Point.
ICE helped Mexican federal police into the U.S. to keep them safe during the operation, Christensen said.
The sting netted the seizure of several assault-type weapons and hundreds of pounds of drugs.
"ICE applauds the government of Mexico for its bold action in taking down this criminal organization and for their continued pressure on the Sinaloa Cartel throughout Mexico," Christensen said.
The arrests are the latest blow to the Sinaloa Cartel after the arrest of drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán on Jan. 8, six months after he escaped from a top-security Mexican prison for the second time.
The Mexican government says it is cooperating with a U.S. extradition request for Guzmán.
The 24 people arrested or killed on Friday have not been identified. The U.S. does not plan to seek extradition for any of them.