By Will Grant
BBC Mexico correspondent
March 10, 2023 at 00:21 GMT
Updated 1 hour ago
Troops guard the morgue where the bodies of Americans were taken
According to reports from the Mexican border town of Matamoros, a splinter group of the Gulf cartel known as the Scorpions Group has apologized for kidnapping four US citizens and killed two of them last week and extradited the men it blames.
Many Mexican newspapers published on their front pages a photo that appears to show five men lying face down on the ground, their hands tied and their shirts pulled over their heads. It was apparently recorded when the police arrived at the scene.
A letter from the Scorpions Group was reportedly left with the men apologizing to the people of Matamoros, the US victims and their families, and a Mexican woman killed last week when the gang shot at a white minivan , in which the Americans were traveling.
The Associated Press says it received a copy of the letter from a Tamaulipas state law enforcement official.
“We decided to extradite those who were directly involved in the events and responsible,” the letter said, saying the five “acted because of their own decision-making and lack of discipline.” The letter also accuses the men of violating antitrust rules designed to “protect the lives of innocent people.”
Video shows the moment four Americans were kidnapped in Mexico
Meanwhile, a health clinic in Matamoros where cartel members allegedly took injured US citizens for treatment has been cordoned off by police. The four Americans were reportedly taken there by the gang, but the two with the worst injuries – Shaeed Woodard and Zindell Brown – died shortly thereafter.
Reuters news agency reported that Mexican officials turned over the bodies of the two dead to US officials in Matamoros on Thursday afternoon and their remains were repatriated.
The latest developments come as some doubts have been expressed in Mexico about the original version of events. The group reportedly traveled to Matamoros for one of them, Latavia McGee, to undergo cosmetic medical surgery at a clinic in town. Her three friends are said to have accompanied her to the appointment.
The international border crossing between Texas and Matamoros
However, Reuters news agency has reported that three of the four Americans were convicted of mainly minor drug offenses – but one was accused of manufacturing prohibited narcotics with intent to distribute.
Reuters says it has seen an internal law enforcement document showing Mexican authorities are investigating the possibility that the four Americans were kidnapped because they were mistaken for rival cartel members encroaching on their turf.
The wooden hut where the Americans were discovered
The question of the Americans’ backstory comes as the political temperature continues to rise over the Matamoros incident. In the United States, several Republican politicians, including South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, have called for the use of US military force against Mexico’s drug cartels.
In particular, he proposes a plan to designate Mexican drug cartels as “foreign terrorist organizations” in order to, as he put it, “unleash the anger and power of the United States against (them)”.
A suspected kidnapper was arrested earlier this week
This rhetoric provoked an angry reaction in Mexico from President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who said “Mexico is neither a protectorate nor a colony of the United States.” His views were shared by Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, who called Senator Graham’s proposal for military intervention “unacceptable”.
Amid strained relations, US Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall is in Mexico to meet President Lopez Obrador to discuss the deepening fentanyl and synthetic opioid crisis in the US.