(updates with discovery of shrine)
A shrine dedicated to a possibly mythical outlaw venerated by drug traffickers as a saint was found by Mexican soldiers as they were showing reporters one of two cross-border drug tunnels discovered this week.
The small, makeshift altar honoring Jesus Malverde and also containing images of the Virgin of Guadalupe (Mexico's patron saint) and Jesus Christ, as well as some Mexican coins, was located inside a "narcotunnel" discovered Thursday night on the northeast side of Tijuana, just across the border from San Diego.
The regional military commander, Gen. Gilberto Landeros Briseño, said Friday it was still too early to say who owned the passageway with the shrine, located near the spot where a large drug tunnel used by Joaquin "El Chapo" (Shorty) Guzman's Sinaloa cartel had been found years ago.
The first of the tunnels was discovered Wednesday night some 200 meters (655 feet) from the border, Landeros said.
He said a small recycling business occupied the building where the tunnel began.
The general said Thursday that the tunnel was discovered thanks to ground reconnaissance operations in the area, noting that one person seen exiting the fake business fled upon noticing the soldiers' arrival and left the door open.
The troops proceeded to enter the building to search the premises and discovered in the bathroom the unfinished tunnel, which presumably was to be used to smuggle drugs, weapons and undocumented migrants across the border.
Landeros said the tunnel had been constructed to a point approximately 60 meters (200 feet) from the border.
The tunnel was one meter in width, 1.7 meters in height and as much as 10 meters deep and had lighting and an unsophisticated ventilation system.
Authorities confiscated two tractor-trailers as well as different excavation tools such as shovels, picks and wheelbarrows.
On Thursday night, military officials in that region said in a statement that a second narcotunnel had been found at a property also located on the northeast side of the city, where 50 tons of marijuana were seized.
That 350-meter-long (1,150-foot-long) tunnel was discovered thanks to ongoing military operations in the area, the statement said.
Since the mid-1990s, authorities have discovered many clandestine passageways along the U.S.-Mexico border, with dozens of narcotunnels having been found in the past four years.
People traffickers and drug cartels often use tunnels to cross the vast U.S.-Mexican border, which runs 3,200 kilometers (1,988 miles). EFE