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U.S. authorities issued highest-level warning against traveling to parts of Mexico after Matamoros kidnapping

Armed men took all four Americans from the scene and transported them in a vehicle

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Amidst the start of spring break travel, the US government has issued a severe warning against travel to certain parts of Mexico, following the recent kidnapping of four US citizens.

The FBI reported that gunmen shot at their vehicle in Matamoros, a city on the northern border of Mexico, resulting in the death of two of the Americans and the abduction of the remaining two, as caught on video.

According to a relative of one of the victims, the group traveled from the Carolinas, crossing into Mexico from Brownsville, Texas, for a cosmetic procedure. The FBI stated that the vehicle was attacked shortly after crossing the border.

Armed men took all four Americans from the scene and transported them in a vehicle, according to the office.

The captives were later found in a wooden shack in a rural area called Ejido Tecolote, east of Matamoros and on the way to the Gulf coast known as Bagdad Beach, according to Tamaulipas state chief prosecutor Irving Barrios.

They were being guarded by a man who was arrested. Tamaulipas Gov. Américo Villarreal said the captives had been moved around and taken to a medical clinic to create confusion and avoid rescue efforts. Eric Williams, one of the wounded Americans, was shot in the left leg but the wound was not life-threatening, according to Villarreal.

The survivors were taken to Valley Regional Medical Center with an FBI escort, and inquiries were referred to the FBI, a spokesperson for the hospital said.

The Mexican border city of Matamoros, located in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, is part of the highest-level travel warning along with Guerrero, Colima, Michoacan, Sinaloa, and Zacatecas, issued by U.S. authorities as spring break travel gets underway.

Although Matamoros is a frequent crossing point for U.S. citizens from Brownsville, Texas to visit family, attend medical appointments or shop, officials warned of the dangers posed by warring factions of the Gulf drug cartel.

The U.S. Consulate issued an alert following the kidnapping of four American citizens who were shot and abducted by armed men while in the city. Despite being a popular destination for spring breakers, increased violence in the past 10 to 15 years has led to a decline in tourism.

In a separate incident, the family of a 33-year-old California public defender, Elliot Blair, who died in Rosarito during his wedding anniversary celebration, disputed Mexican authorities’ claims that his death was accidental. Blair’s autopsy report showed that he had sustained multiple fractures to the back of his skull, road rash on his knees, and a toe injury indicating he was dragged, suggesting that he was the victim of a brutal crime.

The officials highly advise the following if there is a necessity to travel to Mexico:

  • Review the U.S. Embassy’s webpage on COVID-19.
  • Visit the CDC’s web page on Travel and COVID-19.
  • Keep traveling companions and family back home informed of your travel plans. If separating from your travel group, send a friend your GPS location. If taking a taxi alone, take a photo of the taxi number and/or license plate and text it to a friend.
  • Use toll roads when possible and avoid driving alone or at night. In many states, police presence and emergency services are extremely limited outside the state capital or major cities.
  • Exercise increased caution when visiting local bars, nightclubs, and casinos.
  • Do not display signs of wealth, such as wearing expensive watches or jewelry.
  • Be extra vigilant when visiting banks or ATMs.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Follow the U.S. Embassy on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Review the Country Security Report for Mexico.
  • Mariners planning travel to Mexico should check for U.S. maritime advisories and alerts, which include instructions on reporting suspicious activities and attacks to Mexican naval authorities.
  • Prepare a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist.

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