As it happenedended1678545984

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.

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Mexican town Americans were kidnapped in was site of horrific 1989 murder

The kidnapping of the four Americans from South Carolina has drawn renewed attention to a horror abduction in the same cartel-controlled border town of Matamoros more than 30 years ago.

Texas college student Mark Kilroy was 21 years old when he vanished from a Spring Break vacation in 1989.

A search dragged on for almost a month before Kilroy’s remains were found in a mass grave along with other victims.

He was found to have been abducted, tortured and killed by a drug-smuggling satanic cult.

Gustaf Kilander has the full story.

Mexico town Americans were kidnapped was site of horror 1989 spring break murder

Almost 34 years after the killing of Mark Kilroy, Matamoros is once again the site of global attention after the kidnapping of four American tourists from South Carolina

Graeme Massie11 March 2023 00:02
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A tummy tuck appointment, cartel ambush on video and stash house rescue: Timeline of the Mexico kidnapping

The four friends were ambushed by gunfire shortly after their minivan crossed the border into the city of Matamoros on 3 March, before being hauled off in a pickup truck.

They were found in a wooden shack on 7 March in a remote area of the Gulf State in a rural area of east of Matamoros.

Two of the victims, Shaeed Woodard and Zindell Brown, were found dead in the shack, an official told CNN.

The Independent’s Bevan Hurley has the timeline of events:

A tummy tuck, cartel ambush and stash house rescue: Timeline of the Mexico kidnapping

Here’s a timeline of events in the deadly kidnapping of four US citizens in Mexico

Graeme Massie11 March 2023 01:01
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FBI reports two Texas sisters and friend missing in Mexico after crossing border last month

The group has not been heard from for two weeks after heading to a flea market in city of Montemorelos.

FBI reports two Texas sisters and friend missing in Mexico

The group has not been heard from for two weeks after heading to flea market in city of Montemorelos

Graeme Massie11 March 2023 01:25
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Surprise letter casts rare spotlight on cartel PR tactics

The handwritten note by the Gulf cartel apologising for the tragedy in Matamoros might come as a surprise to many but is not in fact an entirely unheard of public relations tactic from Mexico’s drug gangs.

Community outreach efforts like this are actually relatively common in the country. In contested territory, for instance, one gang might hang banners around a city blaming a rival for recent violence and distinguishing themselves as the side that does not mess with civilians.

Last November, such banners appeared around Guanajuato state, purportedly written by the Jalisco New Generation cartel, which blamed a rival for a spate of killings in bars and other businesses.

In other situations, the message is more blunt: bodies are left inside a vehicle with a note or hung from a highway overpass on a heavily transited road. In those cases, the motivation is simply terror, plain and simple.

More subtly, cartels use their power to plant stories in the local press or to suppress unwanted news items from appearing. Their members are often active on social media.

Their underlying interest is always in facilitating their business, whether that be smuggling drugs and migrants or extortion.

Sometimes a cartel will shoot up its rival’s territory hoping to trigger a law enforcement response to make business difficult for their opponents. That’s what appeared to happen two years ago in Reynosa, just up the border from Matamoros. Gunmen drove into town shooting and killed 14 innocent bystanders.

Handing over alleged cartel suspects to police is also not without precedent. Mexican security analyst David Saucedo gas cautioned that a cartel leader may have authorised the attack then regretted it and decided to offer sacrificial lambs to police in the interests of damage limitation.

In 2008, drug traffickers in Michoacan lobbed hand grenades into a crowd celebrating Mexico’s independence, killing eight. Days later, authorities arrested three suspects, but it turns out they had been kidnapped by a cartel, beaten into confessions implicating a rival group and turned over to the cops.

Additional reporting by agencies.

Graeme Massie11 March 2023 02:02
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Mexican woman killed in crossfire identified as church worker Areli Servando

The local woman shot dead in the crossfire during the cartel kidnapping of the four Americans in Matamoras last Friday has been identified as Areli Pablo Servando, a 33-year-old church official who worked with children at a summer school.

Servando was hit by a stray bullet fired during the hail of gunfire issued by the Gulf cartel’s Scorpions faction during the incident, according to Tamaulipas governor Americo Villareal, who added that she was standing about a block and a half away at the time.

According to The Daily Mail, Servando was a graduate of the National College of Technical Professional Education and worked with kids at the Biblical Summer School.

She was also reportedly a member of the Association of Young Ambassadors of Pentecostal Power.

Priscila Andrade, the association’s president, told El Universal newspaper: “Arelita, as I affectionately called her, was my vice president along with many other things… My little sister, best friend and companion.”

Areli Pablo Servando

Graeme Massie11 March 2023 03:05
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The Gulf drug cartel’s ‘apology’

An unnamed Tamaulipas state law enforcement official provided a letter believed to be authored by the Gulf drug cartel to the Associated Press. In it, the criminal organisation promised to turn over five men who kidnapped LaTavia “Tay” McGee, Eric James Williams, Shaeed Woodard and Zindell Brown on 3 March.

“We have decided to turn over those who were directly involved and responsible in the events, who at all times acted under their own decision-making and lack of discipline,” the letter reads, according to the AP.

An extended version of the letter shared by local media also read: “The Gulf drug cartel Scorpion section decries the attack on 3 March, in which a working [Mexican] mother was killed and four American citizens were kidnapped. Two of them were also killed.

“ [The five members] went against the Gulf drug carter’s rules of respecting the life and integrity of innocent people. We apologise to residents of Matamoros ... and the American families affected.”

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

Graeme Massie11 March 2023 04:02
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Cartel letter doesn’t dull pain for Americans’ families

Relatives of the Americans abducted in Mexico said that a purported apology from the Mexican cartel blamed for the attack has done little to dull the pain of their loved ones being killed or wounded.

James Woodward, the father of Shaeed Woodard, said he was speechless upon hearing that the cartel had apologised for the violent abduction that was captured in footage that quickly spread online.

“I’ve just been trying to make sense out of it for a whole week. Just restless, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat. It’s just crazy to see your own child taken from you in such a way, in a violent way like that. He didn’t deserve it,” Mr Woodward told reporters, referring to his son’s death.

The cousin of Eric Williams, who was shot in the left leg during the kidnapping, meanwhile said his family feels “great” knowing he’s alive but does not accept any apologies from the cartel.

“It ain’t gonna change nothing about the suffering that we went through,” Jerry Wallace told the AP.

Mr Wallace, 62, called for the American and Mexican governments to better address cartel violence.

You can read more below.

Cartel letter doesn't dull pain for Americans' families

Relatives of Americans abducted in Mexico said that a purported apology from the Mexican cartel blamed for the attack has done little to dull the pain of their loved ones being killed or wounded

Graeme Massie11 March 2023 05:08
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A tummy tuck appointment, cartel ambush on video and stash house rescue: Timeline of the Mexico kidnapping

The four friends were ambushed by gunfire shortly after their minivan crossed the border into the city of Matamoros on 3 March, before being hauled off in a pickup truck.

They were found in a wooden shack on 7 March in a remote area of the Gulf State in a rural area of east of Matamoros.

Two of the victims, Shaeed Woodard and Zindell Brown, were found dead in the shack, an official told CNN.

The Independent’s Bevan Hurley has the timeline of events:

A tummy tuck, cartel ambush and stash house rescue: Timeline of the Mexico kidnapping

Here’s a timeline of events in the deadly kidnapping of four US citizens in Mexico

Graeme Massie11 March 2023 07:03
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Photos show moment surviving Americans rescued from cartel stash house

Andrea Blanco has this on the astonishing photographs taken earlier this week of the moment LaTavia McGee and Eric James Williams were found alive and rescued by law enforcement from their captors in a remote rural part of Tamaulipas known as Ejido Longoreno.

Photos show rescue of two American tourists from drug cartel stash house

Latavia ‘Tay’ Mcgee was unharmed while Eric Williams suffered a gunshot wound on his right leg but is expected to recover, Mexican officials said

Graeme Massie11 March 2023 09:04
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Mexican Gulf drug cartel boss ‘La Kena’ could be behind deadly kidnapping of American tourists

Mexican authorities reportedly believe one of the most dangerous leaders of the Gulf drug cartel is behind the kidnapping of four Americans in Matamoros last week.

Sources close to the government told local outlet Milenio that investigators are considering whether Jose Alberto Garcia Vilano, known as “La Kena,” is linked to the deadly abduction of four US nationals on 3 March. Vilano’s whereabouts remain unknown since Mexican officials put out a reward for his capture in April 2022.

The Independent has the story:

Mexican Gulf drug cartel boss ‘La Kena’ could be behind deadly kidnapping

Jose Alberto Garcia Vilano’s whereabouts remain unknown since Mexican officials put out a reward for his capture in April 2022

Graeme Massie11 March 2023 11:04

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