Click here to read the full article.
Four American citizens who crossed from Texas into Mexico were held at gunpoint and possibly kidnapped, FBI officials announced, adding that a Mexican national was killed in the same incident.
In a statement issued by FBI Special Agent Ken Salazar, “unknown assailants” in the northeastern Mexican city of Matamoros in Tamaulipas state “violently kidnapped at gunpoint four U.S. citizens in an incident in which an innocent Mexican citizen was tragically killed.” Matamoros is located near the U.S.-Mexico border near Brownsville, Texas.
“We have no greater priority than the safety of our citizens–this is the U.S. government’s most fundamental role,” Salazar said. “U.S. law enforcement officials from numerous agencies are working with Mexican authorities at all levels of government to secure the safe return of our compatriots.”
The FBI is now offering a $50,000 reward for the return of the unidentified kidnapped victims and for the arrest of those who were involved, according to a separate statement from the bureau’s San Antonio office.
The four Americans entered Matamoros in a white minivan with North Carolina license plates. The vehicle came under fire soon after it entered Mexico, the bureau said.
“All four Americans were placed in a vehicle and taken from the scene by armed men,” the FBI San Antonio office said. The FBI did not provide names, descriptions, or other details about the American citizens or the minivan; the license plate number was not provided.
A March 3 post on Twitter appears to show the moment the Americans were held at gunpoint and kidnapped. One woman was seen being forced into a white pickup truck before men clad in what appear to be bulletproof vests and armed with rifles are seen dragging the others into the truck.
Those with information related to the kidnapping are encouraged to contact the FBI San Antonio Division or submit a tip online.
Around the same time, the U.S. consulate in Matamoros issued an alert amid reports of an individual being shot in what appears to be the same incident. It warned U.S. government employees to stay away from the area, noting that this area in Mexico is under a “Level 4: Do Not Travel,” which is the highest-level warning issued by the State Department.
“The U.S. Consulate Matamoros has received reports of police activity occurring in the vicinity of Calle Primera and Lauro Villar in connection to a shooting. Media reports indicate that one individual has been killed. U.S. government employees have been instructed to avoid the area until further notice,” the consulate wrote. “The U.S. Consulate General reminds U.S. citizens that Tamaulipas is classified as Level 4: Do Not Travel in the State Department’s travel advisory for Mexico.”
It advised citizens and employees to be aware of their surroundings, avoid the area, seek shelter if needed, monitor local updates, and review personal security plans or follow the instructions of Mexican officials.
“Organized crime activity—including gun battles, murder, armed robbery, carjacking, kidnapping, forced disappearances, extortion, and sexual assault—is common along the northern border,” including Tamaulipas, says the U.S. Department of State on its website.
On the same day as the purported kidnappings, police in Matamoros sent out a warning on social media to parents to keep their children at home. They cited two shootings in the city, although there was no information provided about the alleged kidnappings.
Reports have indicated that Matamoros is notorious for drug cartel violence. The Gulf drug cartel has long been based in Matamoros, according to the Congressional Research Service, which noted that the criminal organization has splintered into warring factions.
“The Gulf [cartel] reportedly has split into several competing gangs,” said the service in a 2019 report. “Some analysts no longer consider it a whole entity and maintain that it is so fragmented that factions of its original factions are fighting.”
Matamoros was also the site of a large encampment of Haitian and Venezuelan illegal immigrants who were aiming to cross into the United States, according to reports.
“There are thousands of people sleeping on the streets” of Matamoros, said Joshua Rubin, founder of Witness at the Border, said a Border Report article published in December 2022.
Continue reading here.
Scroll down for comments and share your thoughts!
GIPHY App Key not set. Please check settings