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Mexico kidnapping: Gulf cartel sends apology for attack as three Texas women go missing

Video captured the abduction of Americans LaTavia ‘Tay’ McGee, Shaeed Woodard, Zindell Brown and Eric James Williams in border city of Matamoros

Andrea Blanco,Joe Sommerlad,Graeme Massie
Saturday 11 March 2023 14:46 GMT
Related: Drug cartels using drones to pinpoint Border Agents’ locations

Two sisters and a friend from Texas have gone missing in Mexico after crossing the border last month, according to the FBI.

Officials have named the women as Maritza Trinidad Perez Rios, 47, Marina Perez Rios, 48, and their friend, Dora Alicia Cervantes Saenz, 53.

Meanwhile, a Mexican drug cartel has blamed five rogue members of its gang for the deadly kidnapping of four Americans in Matamoros.

The Gulf cartel’s Scorpions faction made the claims in a letter obtained by the Associated Press. Photos purportedly showed the suspects with their hands tied, face down on a sidewalk after being turned in by the cartel along with the letter.

The criminal group apologised for the kidnapping and said five of its members “acted under their own decision-making and lack of discipline”.

“The Gulf cartel asks the community to be calm as we’re committed to ensuring that these types of mistakes are not made ever again and plan to make those who are guilty pay,” the letter states.

The development followed reports that Mexican investigators conducted deep background checks on the four victims – LaTavia “Tay” McGee, Eric James Williams, Shaeed Woodard and Zindell Brown – as they probe the possibility of cartel links.

A report obtained by Reuters flagged the criminal records of Williams and Woodard, finding past drug convictions.

When authorities finally located the missing tourists four days after their abduction one week ago, McGee and Williams were rescued while Woodward and Brown were found dead.


How safe is it to seek healthcare in Mexico?

The killing of two US citizens on their way to a Mexican clinic is a stark warning for the nearly one million Americans who cross the border for medical care each year.

The Independent’s Io Dodds reports:

After the tummy tuck murders, how safe is it to seek healthcare in Mexico?

The killing of two US citizens on their way to a Mexican clinic is a stark warning for the nearly one million Americans who cross the border for medical care each year, Io Dodds reports

Andrea Blanco9 March 2023 12:00

Fifth American reveals lucky escape from Mexico cartel kidnapping after she forgot her ID

A fifth friend has revealed she had a lucky escape from the fatal Matamoros kidnapping after she was stopped at the US-Mexico border because she didn’t have a photo ID.

Cheryl Orange was part of the group of American childhood friends who drove from South Carolina to the border in Texas last week so that one of them – Latavia “Tay” McGee – could get a tummy tuck procedure.

Ms Orange told The Associated Press that she had forgotten to bring an identification card on the trip and so she was denied passage across the border.

That missing ID may well have saved her life.

The Independent’s Rachel Sharp has the full story:

Fifth American reveals lucky escape from Mexico cartel kidnapping

Cheryl Orange was part of the group of American childhood friends who drove from South Carolina to the border so that Latavia ‘Tay’ McGee could get a tummy tuck procedure

Rachel Sharp9 March 2023 12:30

Photos show rescue of two American tourists from drug cartel stash house as dead friends identified

Mexican army soldiers prepare a search mission for four U.S. citizens kidnapped by gunmen in Matamoros, Mexico (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Andrea Blanco9 March 2023 13:00

South Carolina community holds vigil

The South Carolina community which was home to the kidnapped Americans held a vigil on Wednesday in honour of the two victims killed and two survivors.

A prayer service was held at Word of God Outreach Ministries in Lake City, in the state’s Pee Dee region.

Around 40 local residents attended the event led by Pastor Herbert Godwin, lighting candles for the four victims.

Worshipper Barry Epp told The Associated Press that he grew up near Shaeed Woodard and Latavia McGee and played football with Zindell Brown.

He remembered Brown as a “quiet guy” and Woodard as a “good-spirited, friendly jokester”. Both men were found dead on Tuesday.

“You never know what tomorrow is going to bring,” he said. “You gotta love your people while they’re here.”

Rachel Sharp9 March 2023 13:30

Republicans propose military intervention in cartel-dominated Mexico areas

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told Fox News that he would introduce legislation to “set the stage” for using military force in Mexico to combat the drug cartel.

Mr Graham made the remarks on Jesse Watters’s show on Monday evening, saying he would “introduce legislation to make certain Mexican drug cartels foreign terrorist organizations under US law and set the stage to use military force if necessary.”

The Independent’s Eric Garcia has the story:

GOP calls for military response to murdered American tourists in Mexico

‘I would put Mexico on notice,’ Sen Lindsey Graham says

Andrea Blanco9 March 2023 14:00

Americans deterred from travelling to Matamoros

The US State Department has advised Americans not to travel to Tamaulipas due to the risk of crime and kidnapping, with the region featuring on its “Level 4: Do Not Travel” list.

The US Consulate in Matamoros issued a warning to its employees on Friday in response to the latest outbreak of violence.

Anyone with information is urged to contact the FBI San Antonio Division at 210-225-6741 or to submit tips anonymously online here.

Andrea Blanco9 March 2023 14:43

Zindell Brown had been wary about travelling to Mexico

Zindell Brown, one of the two Americans killed in the kidnapping, was concerned about the risks involved in travelling to Mexico, his sister told the Associated Press.

“Zindell kept saying, ‘We shouldn’t go down,’” Zalandria Brown told the news organisation.

And she added: “This is like a bad dream you wish you could wake up from. To see a member of your family thrown in the back of a truck and dragged, it is just unbelievable.”

Andrea Blanco9 March 2023 15:32

Wife of American tourist who survived Mexico cartel kidnapping says she didn’t even know he’d left US

The wife of an American tourist who survived the horror kidnapping by a notorious Mexican drug cartel has revealed that she didn’t even know he had left the US.

Eric James Williams and his friend Latavia “Tay” McGee were rescued from a drug cartel “stash house” on Tuesday, four days after they were kidnapped by armed gunmen in Matamoros, Mexico, while on their way to a tummy tuck clinic.

Their two friends Shaeed Woodard and Zindell Brown were killed in the horror attack.

Mr Williams’ wife Michelle has now spoken out to reveal that she hadn’t even known he was crossing the border into Mexico – and a border city largely ruled by the Gulf drug cartel.

The Independent’s Rachel Sharp has the story:

Wife of American who survived Mexico cartel kidnapping didn’t know he’d left US

Eric James Williams and his friend Latavia ‘Tay’ McGee were rescued from a drug cartel ‘stash house’ on Tuesday – but their friends Shaeed Woodard and Zindell Brown were found dead

Andrea Blanco9 March 2023 16:10

PICTURED: First suspect arrested in Matamoros kidnapping

A picture of Jose Guadalupe “N” the person detained in the rescue operation is displayed during a press conference to give details after two American citizens were found dead in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, at Auditorium of Secretaria de Seguridad y Protección Ciudadana on March 07, 2023 in Mexico City, Mexico.

(Getty Images)
Andrea Blanco9 March 2023 16:59

‘Clan del Golfo’ cartel likely behind the attack

Governor of Tamaulipas Américo Villarreal said during a press conference that the group was moved from different locations, including a clinic, during the three days that their kidnapping lasted in an attempt to throw off investigators.

Mr Villareal said that the “Clan del Golfo” is the cartel known to operate and control the area. Tamaulipas Attorney General Irving Barrios Mojica also said that Mexican officials believe members of the Gulf drug cartel are behind the attack.

A suspect, 24-year-old Jose N, has been arrested. The man was tasked with making sure that the victims didn’t escape and he was captured at the scene, Mr Villareal said.

A member of the Mexican security forces stands next to a white minivan with North Carolina plates and several bullet holes

At an early press conference on Tuesday, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador claimed that the tragedy will be seized by the American media to portray Mexico as a dangerous country, in stark contrast with their “silence when Mexicans are killed in the US.”

He went on to say that GOP politicians will also use the crime as an opportunity to push “their agenda.”

“We continue to work every day towards peace and are very sorry that this has happened in our country,” President López Obrador said. “We send our condolences to the victims’ friends and family and the American people. And we will continue to work towards peace.”

Andrea Blanco9 March 2023 17:52

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