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American Family Shot At In Mexico, 13-Year-Old Killed. FBI Offers Help In Probe

The FBI says it is offering help to authorities in Mexico investigating a shooting attack on an American family that killed a 13-year-old child and wounded others, including a 10-year-old relative, over the weekend.

The attack, according to The Associated Press, took place on a seldom-used road in the northeastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas, south of Texas on Saturday.

The AP reports that Tamaulipas Attorney General's office said the child was a U.S. citizen and that the parents were permanent U.S. residents.

"The FBI has offered assistance, all additional inquiries should be directed to the leading law enforcement agency Tamaulipas State Police," the FBI said in a statement to NPR Tuesday.

The family was driving in a pair of vehicles with Oklahoma plates along a two-lane highway which runs parallel to the U.S.-Mexico border, the AP reports. The family was driving back to the U.S. after a holiday visit in Mexico.

Attackers in an SUV zipped past the family, AP reports, cutting them off and causing the two family vehicles to collide. Then the gunmen shot at them.

"Law enforcement authorities in Mexico have confirmed the death of the minor while three relatives remain at the hospital," the Mexican embassy in Washington, D.C., said in a statement to NPR Tuesday.

"Mexican federal agencies, including the National Guard and the Secretary of Defense, work closely with Tamaulipas government to further investigate and bring those responsible to justice."

The Mexican embassy did not offer a motive for the attack or identify any of the victims. The AP says the highway runs through an area controlled by criminal groups. It adds:

"The highway on which they were shot is considered high risk. It runs through an area that's disputed by criminal groups, including the Gulf Cartel and Zetas. The road connects the city of Mier with Nueva Ciudad Guerrero, on the banks of the Rio Grande across the US–Mexico border from Falcon Heights, Texas."

The attack took place just days after the U.S. State Department issued a security alert for the state of Tamaulipas, with a focus on the city Nuevo Laredo.

"The Consulate continues to monitor reports of ongoing violence and blockades on major highways in Nuevo Laredo," the Jan. 2 advisory said.

The attack on the American family comes at a bloody time in the region. The Texas-based Laredo Morning Times reports police on the U.S. side of the border "continue to monitor the ongoing violent clashes happening in the Sister City."

Webb County Sheriff Martin Cuellar told the paper at least three civilians died in separate crossfire that continues "brewing" in Nuevo Laredo.

The paper reports Cuellar said at least five men thought to be associated with the Cartel Del Noreste and a state police officer were killed in gun battles throughout the Mexican city in recent days.

"(The assailants) were using AK-47 automatic weapons and 50-caliber weapons, a very serious type of weapon that it is only used military areas," Cuellar said, according to the Laredo Morning Times.

The attack on the family in Tamaulipas shares horrific similarities to an attack on other Americans traveling in Mexico two months ago.

In that attack three women and six children were killed in an ambush along a mountain road in northwest Mexico, roughly 70 miles south of the Mexico border with Arizona.

Mexican authorities at the time suspected that attack was carried out by criminals mistaking the Americans for members of a rival drug cartel. As NPR reported at the time, the FBI is assisting in that investigation.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Brakkton Booker
Brakkton Booker is a National Desk reporter based in Washington, DC.