Four U.S. citizens were assaulted and kidnapped after crossing the border into Mexico on Friday, triggering the FBI to launch an investigation and offer a cash reward for their return.
The Americans were taken after crossing into Matamoros, a Mexican city across the border from Brownsville, Texas, the FBI stated in a press release provided to American Military News.
“Shortly after crossing into Mexico, unidentified gunmen fired upon the passengers in the vehicle. All four Americans were placed in a vehicle and taken from the scene by armed men,” the press release stated.
The Americans had crossed the border driving a white minivan with North Carolina license plates, the release stated, adding that an investigation by the FBI, “federal partners,” and Mexican law enforcement is underway.
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The FBI is offering a $50,000 reward “for the return of the victims and the arrest of those involved,” according to the release. Anyone with tips is urged to call the FBI San Antonio Division or submit information online.
Matamoros is a city in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, which the State Department classifies as a “Do Not Travel To” area due to the risk of crime and kidnapping. The State Department states that criminal groups in the area target buses and private automobiles, “often taking passengers and demanding ransom payments.”
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Heavily armed criminal group members often patrol some areas. Gun battles, “forced disappearances,” and other organized crimes are “common along the northern border,” according to the State Department.
The day of the alleged kidnappings, state authorities urged Matamoros residents to stay indoors following two shootings that resulted in an unspecified number of injuries and deaths, according to Crisis24.
Matamoros is home to the Gulf Cartel, a decades-old drug-smuggling group that has split into competing factions in recent years, according to a Congressional Research Service report. In 2018, the Drug Enforcement Administration said the group mostly trafficked cocaine and marijuana, but “recently expanded into heroin and methamphetamine.”