Mexican soldiers burn 105-ton mountain of cannabis seized during drugs raid

These dramatic images show Mexican soldiers wearing gasmasks as they set fire to a 105-ton haul of cannabis seized during a raid in Tijuana.

With an estimated street value of £215million, the vast haul will have to be burnt over two days to avoid clouds of cannabis smoke affecting local people.

The drugs were seized after a shoot-out with drug traffickers and eleven suspects have been arrested.

The drugs, wrapped in different colours and labelled with apparently coded phrases and pictures, including cartoon character Homer Simpson.

Destroyed: Tons of cannabis seized by the Mexican army go up in flames after a shootout in Tijuana

Destroyed: Tons of cannabis seized by the Mexican army go up in flames after a shootout in Tijuana

Soldiers, wearing face masks to keep out the pungent smell of marijuana, spent hours stacking the 105-tonne haul and then stood guard as it was destroyed at a military incinerator.

They had taken 30 hours to weigh the contraband which was wrapped in 10,000 packages the size of small suitcases and bound for the U.S.

Several cartels are thought to have supplied the drugs, hidden in six trailers, five lorries and three vans ready to cross the border from Mexico to the U.S.

Each cartel had colour-coded their packages – and named them after famous Mexican sportsmen including a footballer dubbed ‘El Pony’ or a wrestler called ‘El Mil’ to distinguish theirs from the rest.

Experts say the drugs would have fetched as much as £750 million had it reached the US.

Army chief Alfonso Duarte said: ‘We believe this massive strike against drugs trafficking is one of the biggest in Mexico’s history and possibly the world.

Masked: A Mexican soldier keeps out the fumes as he guards the burning drugs haul

Masked: A Mexican soldier keeps out the fumes as he guards the burning drugs haul

Burn-up: Packages of marijuana are slowly consumed by the fire at an incinerator in a military base in Tijuana

Burn-up: Packages of marijuana are slowly consumed by the fire at an incinerator in a military base in Tijuana

Ready for burning: Mexican soldiers unload tonnes of the marijuana at the Tijuana incinerator

Ready for burning: Mexican soldiers unload tonnes of the marijuana at the Tijuana incinerator

“‘It will have a major impact on these criminals, especially their finances.

‘We’re aware these sorts of operations against drug traffickers can provoke revenge attacks but the police and the army are prepared for this. Attack continues to be our best defence.’

Tijuana has long been a key smuggling corridor for illegal drugs headed for the United States.

A power struggle between rival cartels led to 844 murders in 2008 in the Pacific Coast city the other side of the border with San Diego, California.

There were 2,904 drug-related deaths across Mexico during the first quarter of this year.

Ciudad Juarez led the list with 620 drug-related murders, followed by Culiacan with 193 and Tijuana with 153.

The record haul was discovered after police on a routine patrol intercepted a convoy of vehicles escorting a tractor-trailer that had left a warehouse.

On some of the drug parcels there were the names of animals, such as bulls and wolves, and on some there were symbols, including arrows.

The colours and the symbols are thought to be indicators as to where the parcels were destined.

Inferno: Mexican soldiers watch the fiery end to the record drugs haul seized in a raid in which 11 suspects were arrested

Inferno: Mexican soldiers watch the fiery end to the record drugs haul seized in a raid in which 11 suspects were arrested

Although Mexican drug cartels smuggle marijuana from South America, the drug is increasingly produced in Mexico.

Cannabis production in Mexico increased 35 per cent to 12,000 hectares (29,652 acres) in 2009, from 8,900 hectares (21,991 acres) the previous year, according to the U.S. State Department’s 2010 International Narcotics Control report.

The report attributed the increase to drug cartel efforts to ‘diminish reliance on foreign suppliers’.

The seizure marks a big break through against the cartels in the ongoing drug war in Mexico that has claimed 28,000 lives since 2006.

President Felipe Calderon, who recently visited Tijuana, launched the nationwide crackdown four years ago, deploying some 50,000 troops.

Last week, in the wake of President Calderon’s visit, several bodies were found beheaded and hanging from bridges in Tijuana, leading to fears that the cartels were resuming brutal tactics to send a message that the government is not in control.

Cannabis haul: The cannabis was believed to be colour-coded by the cartels so they could identify their own drugs

Cannabis haul: The cannabis was believed to be colour-coded by the cartels so they could identify their own drugs

source: dailymail.co.uk

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