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Four U.S. citizens were assaulted and kidnapped in Mexico on Friday, the FBI said.
The four Americans drove across the U.S. border and entered the city of Matamoros, which borders the southernmost part of Texas. They were fired upon by unidentified gunmen and “placed in a vehicle and taken from the scene by armed men,” according to the FBI in San Antonio.
The group drove a white minivan with North Carolina license plates, according to the FBI. The names of the victims have not been released.
They are believed to have been targeted by mistake, a U.S. official told CNN.
The FBI and Mexican law enforcement agencies are investigating. The FBI is offering a $50,000 reward for the return of the kidnapped Americans.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said the “whole government is working on” rectifying the situation.
“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.
Receipts found in the Americans’ vehicle support the theory that they were in the country to buy medicine.
An innocent Mexican citizen also died as a result of the incident, according to U.S. ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar.
Matamoros has been rife with gang violence for years, particularly warring sub-groups of the Gulf Cartel. On Friday, the city had several shootings, and the U.S. Consulate warned government employees to avoid the area.
The State Department cautions U.S. citizens not to visit the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, where the city is located, due to “crime and kidnapping.”
“Organized crime activity – including gun battles, murder, armed robbery, carjacking, kidnapping, forced disappearances, extortion, and sexual assault – is common along the northern border and in Ciudad Victoria,” reads the State Department’s “Do Not Travel” advisory. “Criminal groups target public and private passenger buses, as well as private automobiles traveling through Tamaulipas, often taking passengers and demanding ransom payments.”
CNN said it obtained photos that reportedly show the vehicle believed to be the Americans’ minivan. The photos, which CNN said it confirmed with a U.S. official, reportedly show that the minivan crashed with another vehicle before the group was kidnapped at gunpoint.
In the photos, a woman is reportedly seen looking at and then sitting next to three people lying on the ground outside a white minivan, which has all its doors open, CNN reported. Then, the woman appears to be loaded onto the bed of a white pickup truck, while three people are lying in the street next to the truck, the photos reportedly show. One photo also shows an ambulance, the outlet said.
A video posted to Twitter on Friday appears to show the kidnapping, CBS reported.
In the video, a woman is seen being forced to walk to the back of a white pickup truck and then forced to get in the bed of the truck. One man is seen dragging a motionless person across the street to the pickup truck, leaving a dark trail. Three men put two motionless people in the bed of the pickup truck with the woman. The men were armed with long guns and wearing bulletproof vests.