Four US Citizens Kidnapped After Crossing Mexican Border


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Four U.S. citizens were assaulted and kidnapped Friday by unidentified gunmen after crossing the Mexican border, the FBI said.

Soon after crossing from Brownsville, Texas, into the northern Mexico border city of Matamoros in Tamaulipas state, the Americans, who were traveling in a white minivan with North Carolina plates, were fired at, placed into another vehicle and taken from the scene by armed men.

"The details of the kidnapping are horrific and alarming," said U.S. Congressman Vicente Gonzales, who represents the 34th District in Texas, which includes Brownsville.

"I stand with the FBI and call on the government of Mexico and the state of Tamaulipas to work in good faith with American investigators to find out who is responsible for this and ensure the safe return of our citizens to U.S. soil. I implore anyone who has information regarding the kidnapping to come forward as the FBI continues their investigation," Gonzales added.

A statement released by the U.S. Embassy in Mexico said $50,000 is being offered for the victims' return and the gunmen's arrests. A Mexican official told Reuters that three men and one woman were kidnapped.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said the U.S. citizens were believed to have been targeted by mistake and traveling to Matamoros for medical procedures, according to receipts found in the vehicle.

"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."

An innocent Mexican citizen was killed in the incident, said the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Ken Salazar.

"We have no higher priority than the safety of our citizens," Salazar said. "This is the most fundamental role of the U.S. government. Officials from various U.S. law enforcement agencies are working with Mexican authorities at all levels of government to achieve the safe return of our compatriots."

Tamaulipas is one of six Mexican states that the U.S. State Department advises against visiting, due to the risks of crime and kidnapping.

"Criminal groups target public and private passenger buses, as well as private automobiles traveling through Tamaulipas, often taking passengers and demanding ransom payments," according to State Department guidance, which issued a Level 4 "Do Not Travel" advisory for the state last October.

Shootouts in Matamoros left an unknown number of people dead and injured Friday, according to Tamaulipas police. U.S. officials issued an alert about the danger. It is not clear if this is connected to the kidnappings.

Some information from this report came from Agence-France Presse, Associated Press, and Reuters.