Four Americans who went missing in Mexico last week were taken in a possible kidnapping, according to the FBI.
The agency is seeking public help in locating the four Americans who disappeared on March 3 after they crossed the border from Brownsville, Texas.
“Four Americans crossed into Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico driving a white minivan with North Carolina license plates,” read a statement from the FBI published by Fox 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 FBI did not name the four missing individuals.
The Americans “had traveled to the border city of Matamoros for medical procedures,” a U.S. official “citing receipts found in the vehicle” told CNN. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador “offered a similar explanation.”
“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,” Obrador said, according to CNN. “The whole government is working on it.”
The region across the border from Brownsville is predominantly run by the Gulf drug cartel, a criminal syndicate and drug trafficking organization in constant conflict with warring factions.
Ken Salazar, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, said Monday American officials are working with Mexican law enforcement to bring the four missing citizens home. The FBI is offering a $50,000 reward for the safe return of the missing Americans and the arrest of the captors. Tips can be submitted to https://tips.fbi.gov.
Kidnapping of Americans in Mexico is far from unprecedented. The State Department has warned Americans against trips to the Tamaulipas state since at least Oct. 22 with a level 4 travel advisory “due to crime and kidnapping.”
Last year, an American tourist had his foot hacked by a machete after being kidnapped by his taxi driver. In December 2021, six Mexican nationals from a trafficking group in Tijuana were indicted by a U.S. federal grand jury for kidnapping nine victims and murdering six. Three of those reportedly executed were American citizens. In 2013, an American named Shane Andersen was held for $20,000 ransom in Monterrey, Mexico.
Most kidnappings don’t pick up major press coverage. This week’s hostage situation, however, has already driven headlines across the major networks as the U.S. southern border with Mexico continues to spiral out of control.
CBS aired apparent footage of the kidnapping Monday morning.
Escalating violence across the international boundary has amplified pressure on Washington lawmakers to address the crisis.
In February, newly-elected Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy made his first visit to the border as the leading figure in the lower chamber. McCarthy blasted the Biden administration’s lethargic response to the crisis at the border where a lack of law enforcement has opened the door to unchecked migration and a flood of narcotics pouring into American communities.
“We don’t even have operational control of it anymore,” McCarthy said at a section of the border wall in southeast Arizona.
The Republican House speaker threatened to launch an impeachment inquiry into Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over the agency’s failure to secure the nation’s boundaries.
“You cannot tell us this border’s secure when now there is enough fentanyl in this country to kill every single American more than 20 times over,” McCarthy said.
In January, cartel violence reached the doorstep of McCarthy’s own California House district where six, including a baby, were murdered in a “cartel-style execution.”