The Americans, who have not been identified, were traveling through Tamaulipas when they were caught in a crossfire between two hostile parties, officials told The Associated Press.
"All four Americans were placed in a vehicle and taken from the scene by armed men," the FBI's San Antonio Division office said. A $50,000 reward for the return of the victims and arrest of the culprits has been offered by the FBI.
Tamaulipas is a state in northeastern Mexico that has long been plagued by drug violence and organized crime. A report by RFI in 2021 stated that "[m]ore than 11,800 people are registered as missing in Tamaulipas, which sits on a drug smuggling corridor."
US Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar said on Monday that the American group was kidnapped at gunpoint. One Mexican citizen was also killed in the attack. No other details were provided, but multiple US agencies are working with Mexican departments to find the missing bunch.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador revealed that the Americans were coming to Mexico to buy medicine when they were caught in a crossfire. The area is home to factions of the Gulf drug cartel. Shootouts in the area from the cartel have been so bad as of late that the US consulate issued alerts for people to shelter in place.
State police said that people were killed in the shootout on Friday, though no number was given. Police said that neither they nor the military was involved.
“There have been two armed incidents between unidentified civilians,” state police said Friday on social media. “The exact number of the fallen is being corroborated.”
AP reports that "[v]ictims of violence in Matamoros and other large border cities of Tamaulipas often go uncounted because the cartels have a history of taking bodies of their own with them. Local media often avoid reporting on such incidents out of safety concerns, creating an information vacuum."
The US State Department has warned US citizens to not go to the Mexican state, though many in Brownsville, Texas frequent the area to visit family and to attend medical appointments.
The victims had North Carolina driver's plates, though no more information was given by the FBI.