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Analyzing where and how Tamaulipas kidnappings took place

Footage of kidnapped Americans in Mexico carry clues that show exactly where and how it happened.
Posted at 8:41 PM, Mar 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-07 20:41:13-05

Some of the biggest questions are still unanswered in the disappearance of four Americans in Mexico — two of whom are now confirmed dead.

"The information we have is that they crossed the border to buy medicine in Mexico and there was a confrontation between groups," said Mexican President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. 

Who is responsible for their disappearance? And why did they do it? 

Photos and video footage out of the state of Tamaulipas tell a terrifying story. The video released is the most haunting. In it, we see a woman being led to the back of a white pickup truck. She appears to be wearing the same green dress seen in a photo earlier.  An Associated Press image shows one of the abducted Americans after they were found and rescued by authorities.  

In the video, two other bodies are dragged toward the truck as well. It’s also an important clue for knowing where this took place.  

By looking at the background and comparing with Google street view imagery, we can match it up with a street in Matamoros, a Mexican border town.  

It’s the same location mentioned by the U.S. Embassy in Mexico in an alert issued the day of the kidnapping. It’s also about three blocks from the U.S. Mexico border. 

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A second video was filmed about a mile and a half away and shows vehicles racing toward the location. It doesn’t appear the white truck in the first video is among the vehicles here. 

Images, some graphic, also give some hints as to what happened. Photos shared not long after the shootout occurred on Friday show a crashed white minivan with a shot-out driver side window.  

A statement from the FBI seeking more information on the incident mentioned both a white minivan with North Carolina plates as well as the fact the kidnapped Americans were placed in a truck and taken from the scene. 

It’s not possible to make out the license plate of the white minivan in any of the images we have, but the same individuals being loaded in the truck can be seen near the van in some of the images.  

It’s still not clear who exactly was involved in the kidnapping. On Friday, the region’s public security secretary said there were two armed incidents between "unidentified civilians" in the city.  

Matamoros is a hub for cartel activity, and there’s often infighting between the various factions in both the city and region as a whole. The U.S. State Department issued a "Level 4: do not travel" alert for the area in October due to crime and kidnapping.