According to U.S. and Mexican officials, gunmen abducted four Americans who had entered Mexico from Texas last week to buy medicine but were caught in a shootout that claimed the life of at least one Mexican.
They were traveling in a white minivan with North Carolina registration plates. According to a statement released by the FBI San Antonio Division office on Sunday, they came under fire on Friday shortly after arriving in Matamoros from Brownsville, the southernmost point of Texas close to the Gulf coast.
Armed guys “put all four Americans in a vehicle and drove away from the scene,” the office reported.
The FBI is offering a $50,000 reward for the safe return of the abducted people and the capture of the criminals.
The four were reportedly on their way to buy medicine when “there was a fight between factions,” according to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who could not provide further information.
Driving through Matamoros, a woman witnessed what seemed to be a gunshot and kidnapping. She requested anonymity out of concern for retaliation.
The scenario depicts the dread that has long persisted in Matamoros, ruled by rival Gulf cartel gangs who frequently engage in conflict.
Thousands of Mexicans have vanished throughout the unrest, just in Tamaulipas state, where Matamoros is located.
According to the woman, the white minivan was allegedly struck by another vehicle close to a crossroads before gunshots broke out.
A second SUV pulled up, and several armed men got out.
She described how the gunman suddenly appeared in front of them.
“I fell into a state of astonishment; nobody moved or honked their horn. Everyone was likely thinking, “If we move, they’ll see us, and they might shoot us.
She claimed that the assailants pushed a woman who could walk into the bed of a pickup truck. The shooters carried another victim, who could still move his head, to the truck.
The woman said we didn’t know if the other two, dragged over the pavement, were alive.
Minutes later, Mexican authorities showed up.
A video shared on social media on Friday showed men loading the four victims into the bed of a pickup truck in broad daylight while brandishing assault rifles and wearing tan body armor.
The others appeared dead or injured, but the one was awake and sitting up.
In Matamoros on Friday, shootings were so severe that the U.S. Authorities in the area issued a warning about the hazard, and the consulate issued an alert. How the kidnappings might have been related to that violence on Friday wasn’t immediately apparent.
In a statement released on Monday, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar said that the Americans were taken hostage at gunpoint and that a fellow citizen of Mexico perished in the attack.
He noted several US justice organizations collaborated with their Mexican counterparts to locate the missing. The authorities have not revealed the victims’ identities and origins.
According to Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, President Joe Biden was apprised of the issue. She cited privacy issues in her refusal to respond to further inquiries.
The number of fatalities and injuries reported by the Tamaulipas state police on Friday was unknown. In “two armed encounters between unidentified citizens,” the state police claimed on social media that neither law enforcement nor the military was involved.
Because the cartels tend to carry their bodies with them, the number of victims of violence in Matamoros and other sizable border cities in Tamaulipas frequently goes uncounted. Due to safety concerns, local media often don’t cover such instances, leaving a knowledge gap.
The Associated Press was able to view photos taken at the site, showing a white minivan with all its doors open and the driver’s side glass broken after hitting a red SUV. Several victims were lying in the next street, surrounded by militants brandishing rifles.