Matamoros, Tamaulipas — The FBI office in San Antonio has issued an alert regarding the kidnapping of four American citizens. The alert was issued Sunday after the four Americans were forcefully removed from their white minivan on March 3.
The four had driven over the border from Texas to the city of Matamoros in the state of Tamaulipas for medical purposes when they became part of a criminal gang clash.
Oliver Rich, special agent in charge of the San Antonio Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, announced a reward of $50,000 USD for information leading to the return of the victims alive.
He added that, according to initial investigations, the Americans crossed from Brownsville, Texas, to Matamoros, Tamaulipas, in a white minivan with North Carolina license plates.
Shortly after crossing into Mexico, unidentified gunmen shot at them and then removed them from their vehicle into the bed of a pickup truck. They have not been heard from since. One innocent bystander, a Mexican citizen, was killed by gunfire during the clash.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has said that his entire government is working to help locate the four American citizens who were captured in Matamoros March 3 by members of organized crime.
The white minivan happened to stumble into the middle of a confrontation between two criminal groups. Some of those criminals involved in the confrontation have been arrested.
López Obrador confirmed that “They are people from the United States who crossed the border to buy medicine in Mexico and there was a confrontation between groups and some of them were arrested. The entire government is working on it,” he said adding that Mexico’s Secretary of Security and Citizen Protection, Rosa Icela Rodríguez Velázquez, is in command of the rescue operation of the Americans.
U.S. media has identified the four American citizens as Zindell “B”, Latavia “M”, Shaeed “W” and Eric “W”. According to Zalandria “B”, the sister of Zindell “B”, the four traveled to Matamoros for a cosmetic procedure, specifically so one of them could get a tummy tuck.
United States media has associated the Gulf Cartel with the kidnapping of the four Americans. According to an unnamed US official quoted by CNN, the Americans were likely confused with “Haitian drug traffickers” because they are African Americans.
One of the arms of the Gulf Cartel known as Escorpiones, is believed related to the kidnapping. Guzmán said that it was likely a dispute between an arm of the Gulf Cartel and the Northeast Cartel who are fighting over territory.
The U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Ken Salazar, has issued a statement regarding the kidnapping.
“On Friday, March 3rd, unknown assailants in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, violently kidnapped at gunpoint four US citizens in an incident in which an innocent Mexican citizen was tragically killed.
“We have no greater priority than the safety of our citizens – this is the U.S. government’s most fundamental role. US 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 Mexican state of Tamaulipas is one of six that the U.S. State Department advises travelers not to visit because of known “crime and kidnapping” incidences between the drug cartels.