Colombian soldiers have seized a fully submersible drug-smuggling submarine capable of reaching the coast of Mexico, authorities announced Monday.
Previous drug-carrying vessels found in Colombia were only semi-submersible, meaning part of the structure always remained above the surface.
But the sub discovered Sunday can operate completely underwater, said Col. Manuel Hurtado, chief of staff of Colombia's Pacific Command. He estimated it could hold eight tons of drugs.
The sub in Colombia was found in a rural area of Cauca province on the Timbiqui River about 275 miles southwest of Bogota.
Hurtado said intelligence reports and tips from informants led troops to the vessel. He said the sub was empty when soldiers found it and no one was arrested.
General Jaime Herazo said it was believed the sub belonged to "narco-traffickers coupled with narco-terrorists, who received a heavy blow [due to its capture]," .
The 99-foot-long fiberglass vessel has room for a crew of six and is powered by two diesel engines and has an air-conditioned interior, Hurtado said.
He said it was equipped with a 16½-foot periscope.
"The engines were already fully installed and ready to go," Hurtado said.
The sub had "the capacity to sail totally underwater and the ability to travel to the coast of Mexico without surfacing," he added. He said such a trip would take eight to nine days.
Hurtado estimated the vessel had taken six to eight months to build and cost about $2 million.
He said Colombia has seized at least 32 semi-submersible vessels designed to smuggle drugs over the last decade, including a dozen last year.
Last July, another fully submersible "narcosub" was seized just across the border by authorities in neighboring Ecuador.