Two of the four Americans kidnapped in Mexico are dead while the other two are alive
Two of the four Americans kidnapped by armed gunmen in a Mexico border city on Friday were found dead and two were found alive, Mexican officials said Tuesday.
Tamaulipas Gov. Americo Villarreal said ambulances and security forces were bringing them to safety, but did not provide details on the extent of the wounded person’s injuries.
The FBI had said Sunday it was searching with Mexican authorities for the missing U.S. citizens. A relative of one of them said Monday that they had travelled together from South Carolina so one of them could get a tummy tuck from a doctor in the city of Matamoros, where Friday’s kidnapping took place, just across the border from Brownsville, Texas.
Shortly after entering Mexico they were caught amid fighting between rival cartel groups in the city. A video showed them being loaded into the back of a pickup truck by gunmen.
Officials said a Mexican woman also died in Friday’s crossfire.
The U.S. citizens were found in a rural area east of Matamoros called Ejido Longoreno on the way to an area on the Gulf coast known as “Bagdad Beach,” according to a state authority who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the case. Word of their location came to authorities before dawn Tuesday.
Villarreal confirmed the deaths by phone during a morning news conference by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, saying details about the four abducted Americans had been confirmed by prosecutors.
Lopez Obrador said one suspect was in custody.
“Those responsible will be found and they are going to be punished,” he said, referencing arrests made in the 2019 killings of nine U.S.-Mexican dual citizens in Sonora near the U.S. border.
Mexico’s president complained about the U.S. media’s coverage of the missing Americans, accusing them of sensationalism. “It’s not like that when they kill Mexicans in the United States, they go quiet like mummies.”
“It’s very unfortunate, they (the U.S. government) has the right to protest like they have,” he said. “We really regret that this happens in our country.”
The abduction illustrates the terror that has prevailed for years in Matamoros, a city dominated by factions of the powerful Gulf drug cartel who often fight among themselves. Amid the violence, thousands of Mexicans have disappeared in Tamaulipas state alone.
Video and photographs taken during and immediately after the abduction Friday show the Americans’ white minivan sitting beside another vehicle that a witness said had collided with it. Almost immediately several gunmen in tactical vests and toting assault rifles arrived in another vehicle to surround the scene.
They walked one of the Americans to a white pickup and dragged and loaded the three others while terrified drivers sat silently in their cars hoping not to draw their attention. Two of the victims appeared to be motionless.
The FBI had offered a US$50,000 reward for the victims’ return and the arrest of the kidnappers.
The State Department has a “Do Not Travel” warning in place for Tamaulipas state due to “crime and kidnapping.” It said organized crime activity, including gun battles, armed robberies and kidnappings, are common along the border and in Ciudad Victoria.
“Criminal groups target public and private passenger buses, as well as private automobiles traveling through Tamaulipas, often taking passengers and demanding ransom payments,” the warning says.
Authorities have yet to identify the four people.
Mexico has become a particularly popular destination for “medical tourism,” attracting travelers who may be seeking cheaper alternatives or medical treatments that are unapproved or unavailable in the US. But the CDC warns the growing trend can carry dangerous risks depending on the destination and facility, including infection and possible post-procedure complications.
Mexico is the second most popular destination for medical tourism globally, with an estimated 1.4 to 3 million patients traveling into the country to take advantage of inexpensive treatment in 2020, according to Patients Beyond Borders, an international healthcare consulting company.
Matamoros, however, is “not considered a primary medical travel destination,” said Josef Woodman, the company’s founder, “largely because there are no internationally accredited medical centers/speciality clinics there, or in the immediate region.”
Mexico City, Cancun, and Tijuana are more frequented and reliable destinations in the country, Woodman said. On average, Americans can save 40% to 60% across the most common major procedures received by medical tourists in Mexico, according to an analysis of 2020 health ministry data conducted by Patients Beyond Borders.
Part of the article was reported by NBC News.