Global Courant 2023-03-06 23:35:04
Four U.S. citizens were attacked and abducted by gunmen in northeastern Mexico on Friday in a case of mistaken identity, a U.S. official with knowledge of the investigation told CNN.
The Americans were allegedly targeted by mistake and were not the intended victims, the official said. They had traveled to the border town of Matamoros for medical procedures, the official said, citing receipts found in the vehicle.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador offered a similar explanation.
“The information we have is that they crossed the border to buy medicines in Mexico, there was a confrontation between groups and they were detained,” the president said. “The whole government is working on it.”
The missing Americans, who were not identified, drove into Matamoros on Friday in a white minivan with North Carolina license plates, the San Antonio FBI said. There, they were fired upon by unidentified gunmen and were “placed in a vehicle and taken from the scene by gunmen,” according to the FBI.
An innocent Mexican citizen was killed in the incident, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar said.
“We have no higher priority than the safety of our citizens,” Salazar said. “This is the most fundamental role of the US government. Officials from various U.S. law enforcement agencies are working with Mexican authorities at all levels of government to ensure the safe return of our compatriots.”
The FBI is seeking the public’s help in finding them and identifying those responsible. The agency announced a $50,000 reward for their return and the arrest of those involved. The FBI said it is working with other federal partners and Mexican law enforcement agencies to investigate the kidnapping.
CNN has reached out to the FBI for more information about the victims and has also sought comment from the government of Tamaulipas, the office of the Secretary of Public Security of Tamaulipas and the office of the Mexican Attorney General.
The incident highlights the ongoing violence in some Mexican cities, which have been plagued by organized crime since at least the beginning of the Mexican drug war in 2006.
Matamoros, one city with more than 500,000 inhabitants in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, is located across from Brownsville, Texas. On the same day as the alleged kidnappings, for example police issued a warning to parents to keep their children home from school because of two shootings in the city.
The United States Department of State has issued a “Level 4: Do Not Travel” advisory for US citizens considering going to Tamaulipas, citing crime and kidnapping.
“Criminal groups target public and private passenger buses, as well as private cars traveling through Tamaulipas, often taking passengers and demanding ransoms,” the State Department’s consultancy said.
Matamoros was also the site of a large tent camp of migrants – mostly Venezuelans and Haitians – who hoped to enter the US to seek asylum.
Photos obtained by CNN show that the car, believed to be driven by the Americans, crashed into another vehicle before being shot at the scene.
The FBI would not confirm the authenticity of the footage, but CNN has confirmed the authenticity of the photos and video with a US official familiar with the investigation. CNN also geolocated the footage.
The photos show a woman looking and then sitting next to three immobile people lying on the ground outside a white minivan. All the doors of the van were open.
The woman then appears to have been loaded onto the bed of a white pickup truck, the photos show. Several immobile people could be seen on the street next to the pickup, according to the photos.
A photo shows that an ambulance has arrived, but it is unclear whether any medical assistance was provided.
Anyone with information about the incident is encouraged to call the FBI’s San Antonio Division or pass on a tip online.