Members of the Mexican military and the country’s Criminal Investigation Agency found a “bazooka” likely used to launch drugs or contraband over the border in a modified van in Agua Prieta, a town just over the border from Douglas, Arizona, in Sonora, Mexico.
The discovery was made on November 9 during a search authorised by a judge.
The Sonora state attorney general said the drugs consisted of 203 packets of marijuana, weighing more than 1,800 pounds.
The van was “adapted” with a metal tube, hooked up to a hose and a compressor, and the vehicle had a sliding roof allowing the tube to be raised and to fire projectiles, according to Mexican newspaper El Universal.
The search also uncovered a gasoline motor and a tank to store air.
Authorities also found 1,965 bullets of different calibers and 26 magazines.
Authorities found the van and the materials on Agua Prieta’s Avenue 14, which runs right up to the border, though it’s not clear where it was on the avenue.
The discovery is only the most recent of its type.
In September last year, Mexican federal police in the same municipality found another van modified to carry a similarly designed cannon, as well as an air compressor, a gasoline motor, an air tank.
The cannon in that case was a 3-meter-long metal tube that authorities described as a “homemade bazooka” designed to be hooked up to the compressor to launch projectiles.
In the past, smugglers would simply throw small loads of drugs over the border by hand. “They now utilise compressed air cannons to launch bundles of illicit narcotics in excess of 100 pounds over the border fence,” Paul Beeson, the director of the Homeland Security Department’s joint task force for the southwest US border, told Congress in February.
US authorities have said since 2012 that smugglers make use of such cannons. Cans and packets of marijuana, cocaine, and crystal meth have been found on the US side of the border, and those projectiles can be launched from as much as 200 meters inside Mexican territory.
The area around Agua Prieta has seen a variety of high- and low-tech smuggling attempts.
In the late 1980s, the Sinaloa cartel, under the direction of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, built one of its first “narco tunnels” there, running about 200 feet between a home in Agua Prieta and a cartel-owned warehouse in Douglas, Arizona.
In 2011, would-be smugglers a few miles west of Agua Prieta were observed setting up a catapult just south of the border fence. Mexican authorities moved in, seizing the catapult and about 45 pounds of marijuana. In February this year, US border patrol agents found a catapult attached to the border wall near Douglas, Arizona, and discovered two bundles of marijuana nearby.
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