Four US citizens kidnapped in Mexico border city
Ciudad Victoria, Mexico (AP) —A gunmen kidnapped four U.S. citizens who crossed into Mexico from Texas last week to buy medicine but were caught in a shootout that killed at least one Mexican citizen, U.S. and Mexican officials said Monday. The four were in a white minivan with North Carolina license plates.
They came under fire on Friday shortly after entering the city of Matamoros from Brownsville, the southernmost tip of Texas near the Gulf coast, the FBI San Antonio Division office said in a statement Sunday. “All four Americans were placed in a vehicle and taken from the scene by armed men,” the office said. The FBI is offering a $50,000 reward for the victims’ return and the arrest of the kidnappers.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Monday the four were going to buy medicine, “there was a confrontation between groups, and they were detained,” without offering details. A video posted to social media Friday shows men with assault rifles and tan body armor loading the four people into the bed of a pickup truck in broad daylight. One was alive and sitting up, but the others appeared to be either dead or wounded.
Shootouts in Matamoros on Friday were so bad that the U.S. Consulate issued an alert about the danger and local authorities warned people to shelter in place. It was not immediately clear how the abductions could have been connected to that violence Friday.
U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar said in a statement Monday that the Americans were kidnapped at gunpoint and an “innocent” Mexican citizen died in the attack. He said various U.S. justice agencies were working with their Mexican counterparts to recover the missing. Authorities have provided no other details about who the victims were or where they were from.
President Joe Biden had been informed of the situation, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday. She declined to answer other questions, citing privacy concerns.
Victims of violence in Matamoros and other large border cities of Tamaulipas often go uncounted, because the cartels have a history taking bodies of their own with them. Matamoros is home to warring factions of the Gulf drug cartel.
Tamaulipas state’s many border crossings with Texas make it lucrative for the cartels that move drugs, migrants and guns between Mexico and the U.S. The State Department’s travel warning for Tamaulipas warns U.S. citizens not to travel there. However, being a border city, U.S. citizens who live in Brownsville or elsewhere in Texas frequently cross to visit family, attend medical appointments or shop. It would also be a crossing point for people traveling deeper into Mexico.