Kevin Sieff, Paulina Villegas, Leo Sands.

MEXICO CITY — Two of the four Americans who were kidnapped in a Mexican border city last week are dead, Mexican officials said Tuesday morning.

“Approximately one hour ago we confirmed that the four Americans were located,” Tamaulipas state governor Americo Villarreal said in a phone call during President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s daily news conference.

“Thirty-five minutes ago we got confirmation from the prosecutor’s office that of the four people, two were found dead, one wounded and one alive,” Villarreal said. “Ambulances are rushing to the area to recover them and offer them medical care.”

A Mexican official said the Americans were found in the village of Tecolote, about 15 miles from the border city of Matamoros, the site of the kidnapping Friday. The attorney general of Tamaulipas, Irving Barrios Mojica, said the Americans were found as part of a “joint search”; Mexican officials said they had received intelligence from the U.S. government.

Tamaulipas state security secretary Rosa Icela Rodríguez said a suspect had been detained but offered no further details.

López Obrador said Tuesday that there would be “no impunity” for the perpetrators. He said Mexican authorities were “working and cooperating” with their U.S. counterparts in a “respectful” manner but his government would not allow “foreign countries” to intervene in national issues.

“We don’t meddle to try to see what U.S. criminal gangs distribute fentanyl in the United States. ” he said.

Officials did not immediately name the victims. The Americans have been identified by family members as three friends who were accompanying a fourth who planned to undergo a medical procedure there.

Latavia “Tay” McGee, her cousin Shaeed Woodard and friends Zindell Brown and Eric James Williams, traveling in a minivan with North Carolina plates, had reportedly just crossed over the border from Brownsville, Tex., to Matamoros when they were fired on and abducted by unidentified assailants.

The FBI has offered a $50,000 reward for their return and the arrest of those responsible.

“This is like a bad dream you wish you could wake up from,” Zalandria Brown told the Associated Press before the deaths were announced. She identified one of the kidnap victims as her younger brother Zindell Brown of Myrtle Beach, S.C.

One member of the group intended to undergo the cosmetic medical procedure known as a tummy tuck, Zalandria Brown said.

Video posted on social media on March 3 shows gunmen loading several people into the back of a pickup truck in Matamoros, Mexico. (Video: Twitter)

Mexico’s organized crime groups do not ordinarily target U.S. citizens to avoid drawing the ire of the U.S. government. While it’s unclear if the killings will change U.S. security strategy, Mexico will now come under pressure to demonstrate an effort to crack down on the groups involved in the incident.

That isn’t an easy task in a city such as Matamoros, where the Zeta cartel controls significant territory, and has enough manpower and firearms to challenge Mexican security forces.

Video and photographs from the scene verified by The Washington Post show armed men wearing protective vests forcing a woman into the back of a white pickup and dragging three other people to the truck trailing what appears to be blood on the ground. A fifth person can be seen lying on the sidewalk, apparently injured. The U.S. ambassador to Mexico in a statement said “an innocent Mexican citizen” was killed in the confrontation.

Christina Hickson, the mother of 28-year-old Zindell Brown, told ABC affiliate WPDE in Myrtle Beach that she identified her son from footage of the kidnapping shared online.

“I was able to follow each one as they would be placed on the truck,” she said. “I knew immediately that was him.”

Zalandria Brown said “to see a member of your family thrown in the back of a truck and dragged, it is just unbelievable.”

Latavia McGee was traveling to Mexico from South Carolina for a medical procedure, her mother Barbara Burgess, 54, told ABC News. She was traveling with her cousin Woodard, along with friends Zindell Brown and Williams.

Burgess said she had not spoken to her daughter since Friday, when McGee called and said she was 15 minutes away from the doctor’s office.

“Her phone just started going to voice mail,” Burgess said.

López Obrador did not mention a medical procedure when he spoke of the kidnapping Monday.

“The information we have is that they crossed the border to buy medicines in Mexico,” the president told reporters. “There was a confrontation between groups and they were detained.”

Matamoros, home to 580,000 people, is the second-largest city in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, across from Texas’s southern tip. Tamaulipas is one of six Mexican states to which the State Department advises Americans against traveling, citing the risk of crime and kidnapping.

Samuel Oakford contributed to this report.

Source: The Washington Post

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