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4 Americans missing after they were kidnapped in Mexican border city, FBI says

2 Americans kidnapped in Mexico found dead
2 kidnapped Americans found dead in Mexico, 2 found alive, officials say 08:33

Update: Mexican officials says two U.S. citizens missing since their violent abduction last week have been found dead, while two others have been found alive, with one wounded. Click here for the latest.

Four U.S. citizens have been kidnapped after gunmen opened fire on their vehicle in the northern Mexico border city of Matamoros, the FBI said. U.S. officials confirmed on Monday that a Mexican citizen was killed in the incident.

The four had entered Matamoros, across from Brownsville, Texas, on Friday and were travelling in a white minivan with North Carolina license plates.

The FBI San Antonio Division office said in a statement Sunday that the vehicle came under fire shortly after it entered Mexico.

"All four Americans were placed in a vehicle and taken from the scene by armed men," the office said. The FBI is offering a $50,000 reward for the return of the victims and the arrest of the culprits.

A video posted Friday on Twitter appears to show the moment they were kidnapped, CBS News' Christina Ruffini reports. One woman, walking on her own, was forced into a white pickup truck. Men armed with long guns and wearing bulletproof vests are then seen dragging one person after another into the vehicle. 

The conditions of the four are unknown. The video posted online appears to show some of them may be injured.

U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar said in a statement Monday that the Americans were kidnapped at gunpoint and that an "innocent" Mexican citizen died in the attack. He did not offer any additional details, but said various U.S. justice agencies were working with their Mexican counterparts to recover the missing U.S. citizens.

Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Monday that the Americans had crossed the border to buy medicine and ended up caught in the crossfire between two armed groups.

President Joe Biden had been informed of the situation, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday, adding that the White House was "closely following" the situation. 

"These sorts of attacks are unacceptable," she told reporters during a press briefing. "Our thoughts are with the families of these individuals and we stand ready to provide all appropriate consular assistance." 

She declined to answer other questions, citing privacy concerns.  

State Department spokesman Ned Price said the department was not in a position to confirm any reports that the Americans were crossing the border to buy medicine. 

"We're not going to comment on any active leads," Price told reporters Monday, deferring to the FBI on those questions. 

"We do also remind Americans about the existing travel guidance when it comes to this particular part of Mexico," Price said. 

Matamoros is home to warring factions of the Gulf drug cartel and shootouts there on Friday were so bad that the U.S. Consulate issued an alert about the danger and local authorities warned people to shelter in place. The alert also reminded U.S. citizens that this particular part of Mexico is a "Level 4: Do Not Travel," which is the highest-level warning in the U.S. State Department's travel advisory system.  

Tamaulipas state police said people had been killed and injured Friday, but did not say how many. The state police said that neither police nor the military were involved in Friday's shootouts.

"There have been two armed incidents between unidentified civilians," the state police said Friday on social media. "The exact number of the fallen is being corroborated."

Victims of violence in Matamoros and other large border cities of Tamaulipas often go uncounted, because the cartels have a history taking bodies of their own with them. Local media often avoid reporting on such incidents out of safety concerns, creating an information vacuum.

A video posted to social media Friday showed armed men loading two bodies into a truck in broad daylight.

Photographs from the scene viewed by the AP show a white minivan with the driver's side window shot out and all of the doors open sitting on the side of the road after apparently colliding with red SUV. Multiple people were lying in the street beside it surrounded by rifle-toting gunmen.

Their positions appeared to correspond with the video posted online that was taken from another angle, which showed them being dragged across the street and loaded into the bed of a white pickup. One person who was sitting up in the street walks under their own power to the pickup. At least one other appeared to lift his head from the pavement before being dragged to the truck.

The U.S. State Department's travel warning for Tamaulipas state warns U.S. citizens not to travel there. However, being a border city, U.S. citizens who live in Brownsville or elsewhere in Texas frequently cross to visit family, attend medical appointments or shop. It would also be a crossing point for people traveling deeper into Mexico.

For years, a night out in Matamoros was also part of the "two-nation vacation" for spring breakers flocking to Texas' South Padre Island. 

But increased cartel violence over the past 10 to 15 years frightened away much of that business. Sometimes U.S. citizens are swept up in the violence.
Three U.S. siblings disappeared near Matamoros in October 2014 and were later found shot to death and burned. They had disappeared two weeks earlier while visiting their father in Mexico. Their parents said they had been abducted by men dressed in police gear identifying themselves as "Hercules," a tactical security unit in the violent border city.  

The consulate in Matamoros has posted at least four security alerts since Feb. 2020, warning of drug cartel violence, crime, kidnappings and clashes involving criminal armed groups.  

The FBI said the van the victims were driving Friday carried North Carolina license plates, but authorities provided no other details about who they were or where they were from.

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