24 Sinaloa cartel members arrested in joint U.S.-Mexico cross-border raids
Drug-smuggling cell targeted in border city of Sonoyta
A secret cross-border sting involving several U.S. agencies and Mexican law enforcement has netted 24 members of the Sinaloa cartel, authorities said.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced the results of the series of raids late Saturday, following on reports Friday that Blackhawk helicopters flown by Mexican federal police were using the U.S. as a base of operations to conduct operations in the border city of Sonoyta, Sonora, just across the line from Lukeville, Ariz.
Dubbed Operation Diablo Express, the raids targeted "high-level members" of the Sinaloa cartel operating in and around Sonoyta and the U.S. border, said ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen.
Conducting with the aim of protecting Mexican law enforcement, the sensitive operation was kept secret and U.S. officials brought Mexican authorities into Arizona to allow them to "more safely execute their law enforcement operation in Mexico," said Christensen.
Participating in the raid along with ICE's Homeland Security Investigations and Mexican federal police were agents from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, DEA, FBI, the Arizona Department of Public Safety, and the Scottsdale Police Department.
The agency did not release the names of the men arrested during the operation, but said that the suspects will remain in Mexican custody until they can be extradited to the United States.
The targeted cell has been responsible for smuggling millions of pounds of illegal drugs into the United States, while smuggling weapons and millions of dollars in cash back into Mexico, said Christensen.
The operation was kept secret to maintain the element of surprise and to ensure the safety of the Mexican law enforcement officers executing it, she said.
The operation began early Friday morning when Blackhawks flown by Mexican federal police launched from the U.S. and made several trips across the border, said KVOA reporter Michel Marizco.
The Lukeville crossing, about 110 miles southwest of Tucson, is astride the road to Puerto Peńasco, also known as Rocky Point.