Four United States citizens were violently kidnapped at gunpoint in Matamoros, Mexico, Friday, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar said in a statement Monday.
“We have no greater priority than the safety of our citizens – this is the US government’s most fundamental role,” Salarzar’s statement said in part.
“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 statement also said.
The Americans crossed into Matamoros in a white minivan with North Carolina license plates, according to a statement issued by the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Mexico.
Matamoros is about 2.7 miles from Brownsville, Texas, just across the border into Mexico.
Shortly after crossing into Mexico, an unidentified gunman fired upon the passengers in the van. All four Americans were placed in a vehicle and taken from the scene by armed men, the statement also said.
The FBI is offering a $50,000 reward for the return of the victims and the arrest of those involved. The FBI seeks the public’s assistance in identifying the persons responsible for the assault and kidnapping. The agency encourages people with information regarding the investigation to call the FBI’s San Antonio Division at 210-225-6741. Tips, which can be made anonymously, can be submitted online at https://tips.fbi.gov.
The assault and kidnapping may have resulted from a case of mistaken identity, CNN reported Monday, citing an unnamed U.S. official with knowledge of the investigation.
CNN’s source says the Americans were “targeted by mistake and were not the intended victims.” The same official said the group traveled to the border city for medical procedures, which the official apparently determined by receipts found in the vehicle.
Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said the victims crossed the border to buy medicine and “ended up caught in the crossfire between two armed groups,” according to CBS.
The U.S. Consulate in the cartel-plagued city issued a warning Friday instructing U.S. government employees to stay away from a specific area in Matamoros after reports indicated one individual had been killed.
The advisory also reminded U.S. citizens that Tamaulipas, the state in which Matamoros is situated, is classified as “Level 4: Do Not Travel” in the State Department’s travel advisory for the country. The “Do Not Travel” advisory for Tamaulipas state is due to crime and kidnapping.
CBS shared a video on Twitter that appears to show a portion of the disturbing event. In the video, one woman is forcefully walked toward and then shoved into the bed of a white pickup truck. Later in the video, armed men are shown dragging and throwing another person next to the woman in the bed of the pickup.
TheBlaze cautions viewers that the below video, believed to show the moment assailants captured the victims, is quite graphic.
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