Two dozen high-ranking members of the Mexican Sinaloa drug cartel were captured over the weekend during secretive cross-border raids in Arizona that involved agents from U.S. Customs, FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration, according to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman.
The operation, which took place Friday, occurred between the bordering cities of Lukesville, Arizona, and Sonoyta, Mexico. The cities are on the route to the beach resort Rocky Point, also known as Puerto Penasco.
Homeland Security Investigations directed the secret operation, codenamed Mexican Operation Diablo Express, while FBI and DEA agents were on hand to assist in the capture of members from Mexico’s biggest drug cartel, spokeswoman Gillian M. Christensen said, according to an L.A. Times report Sunday.
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“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,” said Christensen. "The organization is also responsible for the smuggling of millions of dollars in U.S. currency, along with weapons, into Mexico."
Mexican federal police were helped into the U.S. by customs agents to keep them safe during the operation, which in addition to arresting the 24 members also seized assault weapons and hundreds of pounds of drugs, said Christensen.
“ICE applauds the government of Mexico for their bold action in taking down this criminal organization and for their continued pressure on the Sinaloa Cartel throughout Mexico,” she said.
The arrest comes just weeks after the Sinaloa drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was captured by Mexican authorities. The leader of the cartel had tunneled his way out of a high-security prison for the second time before being recaptured Jan. 8 The Mexican government is considering an extradition request from the U.S.
The 24 members that were captured Friday are also likely to be extradited to the U.S., where they will face charges.