Mexico: Kidnapping of US citizens likely a case of mistaken identity
Mexico City/Matamoros, Mar 7 (EFE).- Mexican authorities said Tuesday that the assault and kidnapping in the northeastern city of Matamoros of four US citizens – two of whom were found dead – was likely a case of mistaken identity.
In a press conference, the attorney general of Tamaulipas state, Irving Barrios, said investigators believe the Americans were attacked and abducted last Friday after being wrongly identified as members of a rival gang.
He said that is the most viable and “surely the most accurate” hypothesis.
Nevertheless, the federal security and citizen protection secretary, Rosa Icela Rodriguez, said after the US citizens were found on Tuesday in a rural area near Mexico’s Gulf coast that no line of investigation was being ruled out.
The two surviving Americans – one of whom reportedly suffered a gunshot wound that was not life-threatening, according to US media – have been returned to American soil, while the dead bodies are to be repatriated after the conclusion of forensic work.
In remarks to CNN, a US official with knowledge of the investigation said the kidnappers likely mistook the Americans for Haitian drug traffickers.
Tamaulipas Gov. Americo Villarreal, for his part, denied that any FBI agents were in Mexico but acknowledged that they and Mexican law enforcement agencies were exchanging information about the case.
Through that cooperation, Mexican officials learned that the Americans were in Mexico because one member of their group was planning to undergo a cosmetic medical procedure, Barrios added.
He said the only person arrested thus far is an individual identified as Jose Guadalupe “N,” a 23-year-old who was guarding the wooden shack east of Matamoros where the victims were located.
Authorities have not yet determined how many people participated in the crime nor confirmed if they were members of the Gulf Cartel, the drug gang active in that region.
“We don’t have the elements that would allow us to say whether the detained person (belongs to the Gulf Cartel),” Barrios said.
The four Americans were reported missing on Friday shortly after crossing the border from Texas into Matamoros, where the white minivan they were traveling in came under fire from unidentified gunmen, the FBI said in a statement.
In a video posted to social media purportedly showing the aftermath of the shooting, armed men could be seen lifting the victims – including at least one apparently lifeless body – into the back of a pick-up truck.
Citing family members, CNN identified the four kidnap victims as Latavia ‘Tay’ Washington McGee, a mother of six who was to undergo the medical procedure; Shaeed Woodward; Zindell Brown; and Eric Williams.
Williams was injured, while Woodward and Brown were found dead. A Mexican female bystander also was fatally shot at the scene of the kidnapping in Matamoros.
The FBI had offered a $50,000 reward for the return of the victims and the arrest of those involved.
Tamaulipas, which sits on the Gulf of Mexico and borders the US state of Texas, has a high rate of violence and cartel activity. EFE