MATAMOROS, Mexico--Suspected drug cartel members on Thursday handed over five purported henchmen as a would-be apology for the abduction of four Americans in the border city of Matamoros, according to media and a source familiar with the investigation.
Two of the Americans and a Mexican woman died after gunmen opened fire on the U.S. citizens shortly after their arrival in Matamoros on Friday. The four Americans were found on Monday on the edge of the city, by which time two of them were dead.
Mexican officials gave the bodies of the two dead men, identified as Shaeed Woodard and Zindell Brown, to U.S. officials in Matamoros on Thursday afternoon, and they were taken across the border into the U.S., a Reuters witness said.
An internal government document seen by Reuters indicated that a faction of Mexico's Gulf Cartel was likely responsible for the kidnappings and that the gunmen may have believed that the Americans were encroaching on the gang's turf. Mexican newspapers and social media published photos of a letter attributed to a different faction of the cartel in which it apologized for the events in Matamoros, and said it was handing over five men who were involved in the kidnappings.
The letter was left alongside five men with their hands tied in Matamoros, the photos showed. The Mexican source familiar with the investigation confirmed the handover, expressing skepticism the five were the ones responsible for the attack.
The attorney general's office of Tamaulipas, the state where Matamoros lies, declined to comment on the reports.
Separately, the state attorney general's office said its investigation indicated that the Americans were taken by their kidnappers to a clinic where they were given medical attention.
The Mexican source said the evidence suggested Woodard and Brown had probably died from injuries they suffered during the attack by the gunmen in Matamoros on Friday. Their two surviving companions returned to the U.S. earlier this week.
Tamaulipas' attorney general said on Monday the abduction of the four was likely a case of mistaken identity, but authorities have yet to clearly set out the reasons for the attack.
- Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Thursday rebuked calls from some U.S. lawmakers advocating military action in Mexico against drug cartels, describing the proposals as threats to Mexican sovereignty. "We are not going to permit any foreign government to intervene in our territory, much less that a government's armed forces intervene," Lopez Obrador said during a regular news conference.
The kidnapping of four Americans intensified calls from Republican lawmakers in Washington to take a tougher line on organized crime. Texas Republican Dan Crenshaw on Wednesday released a message in Spanish on Twitter asking Lopez Obrador why he opposes a proposal the congressman introduced in January authorizing military force targeting drug cartels in Mexico.
"In addition to being irresponsible, it is an offense to the people of Mexico," Lopez Obrador said during the news conference, adding that Mexico "does not take orders from anyone."
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham on Monday said in a Fox News interview that it was time to "put Mexico on notice" and advocated introducing legislation to classify some Mexican drug cartels as "foreign terrorist groups."