Four Americans who traveled to Mexico last week to seek health care got caught in a deadly shootout and were kidnapped by heavily armed men who threw them in the back of a pickup truck, officials from both countries said Monday.
The four were traveling Friday in a white minivan with North Carolina license plates. They came under fire shortly after entering the Mexican city of Matamoros from Brownsville, Texas, the F.B.I. said in a statement Sunday.
“All four Americans were placed in a vehicle and taken from the scene by armed men,” the F.B.I. said. The bureau is offering a $50,000 reward for their return and the arrest of the kidnappers.
Zalandria Brown of Florence, S.C., said she has been in contact with the F.B.I. and local officials after learning that her younger brother, Zindell Brown, is one of the four victims.
“This is like a bad dream you wish you could wake up from,” she said in a phone interview. “To see a member of your family thrown in the back of a truck and dragged, it is just unbelievable.”
Ms. Brown said her brother, who lives in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and two friends had accompanied a third friend who was going to Mexico for stomach tuck surgery.
A video posted to social media on Friday showed men with assault rifles and body armor loading four people into the bed of a white pickup in broad daylight. One was alive and sitting up, but the others seemed either dead or wounded. At least one person appeared to lift his head from the pavement before being dragged to the truck.
The scene illustrated the terror that has prevailed for years in Matamoros, a city in Tamaulipas State that is dominated by factions of the powerful Gulf drug cartel who often fight among themselves. Amid the violence, thousands of Mexicans have disappeared in Tamaulipas alone.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico said on Monday that “there was a confrontation between groups, and they were detained,” without offering details. He originally said the four Americans had come to Mexico to buy medications.
The chief prosecutor in Tamaulipas, Irving Barrios, told reporters that a Mexican woman had died in the shootings on Friday.
Shootouts in Matamoros were so bad on Friday that the U.S. Consulate issued an alert about the danger and the local authorities warned people to shelter in place.