Mexican authorities have arrested five people over the deadly kidnapping of a group of Americans, after the suspects were left in the street with their hands tied by alleged cartel members, officials said Friday.
The four US citizens, two of whom died, were snatched at gunpoint after crossing the border into crime-plagued Tamaulipas state on Friday in a minivan, apparently so that one could have cosmetic surgery.
Tamaulipas prosecutor Irving Barrios said that a warrant had been executed for five people for the crimes of kidnapping and homicide.
They are the same five men who were found Thursday with their hands bound on a street in the city of Matamoros, apparently dumped by fellow members of the Gulf Cartel, a source in the prosecutor’s office told AFP.
Mexican media published a statement purportedly from the Gulf Cartel that said the group “apologizes” for the incident.
The group decided to hand the perpetrators over to authorities because they acted without the authorization of their bosses, it said.
Another suspect who was allegedly guarding the captives was also arrested earlier.
Mexican authorities believe the drug traffickers mistook the Americans for rivals and shot at them when they tried to escape.
The two survivors, one of whom suffered a gunshot wound to the leg, were returned to the United States on Tuesday via a land border crossing, hours after they were rescued
The bodies of the two dead Americans were repatriated on Thursday, authorities said.
A Mexican bystander was also killed in the shooting.
Washington has vowed a relentless pursuit of justice on the victims’ behalf.
“We will not rest until the culprits face justice,” the US ambassador to Mexico, Ken Salazar, told reporters on Friday.
“These cartels that have so much power in the area must be dismantled,” he said, stressing the need for US cooperation with Mexico, “respecting its sovereignty.”
The kidnapping has led to calls from some US Senators for tougher action against Mexican cartels, which are accused of smuggling the often-deadly opioid fentanyl across the border into the United States.
Republican Senators Roger Marshall and Rick Scott this week introduced a bill in the US Congress seeking to designate the criminal groups as “foreign terrorist organizations.”
Another Republican, Senator Lindsey Graham, has gone further, urging President Joe Biden’s administration to allow the US military to pursue the drug traffickers “wherever they exist.”
The calls have irritated Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who described the proposals as “arrogant” and lacking respect for his country’s sovereignty.
He said that his government would ask Mexicans living in the United States not to vote for the Republican Senators involved, accusing them of using the issue for their own political gain.