Three Americans, Reynosa teen among dead in Mexico bus attack

PACHUCA, Mexico (AP) " Three U.S. citizens traveling to spend the holidays with their relatives in Mexico were among those killed in a spree of shooting attacks on buses in northern Mexico, authorities from both countries said Friday.

A group of five gunmen attacked three buses in Mexico's Gulf coast state of Veracruz on Thursday, killing a total of seven passengers in what authorities said appeared to be a violent robbery spree.

An official of the neighboring state of Hidalgo said the Americans killed in the attack included a mother who was born in the area, and was returning with her two daughters to visit relatives in the region, known as the Huasteca.

A 14-year-old nephew from the Mexican border city of Reynosa who had joined the three family members on the trip was also killed, said Hidalgo state regional assistant secretary Jorge Rocha.

A U.S. embassy official confirmed the women's nationalities, but could offer no information on their ages or hometowns. The official, who was not authorized to be quoted by name, said consular authorities were offering assistance to the victims' relatives.

Rocha identified the dead U.S. mother as Maria Sanchez Hernandez, 39, of Fort Worth, Texas, and the daughters as Carla, 19, and Cristina, 13. However, the embassy could not confirm the names. Rocha said Karla appeared to have been born in Mexico, and that all three held dual citizenship.

While funeral plans were unclear, Rocha said Sanchez Hernandez's mother wants her daughter to be buried in Mexico.

Rocha said the other bus passengers killed in the attacks were a young Mexican couple, who left behind a three-month-old baby boy, who survived the attack. A bus driver was also killed.

Five gunmen who allegedly carried out the attacks were later killed by soldiers.

Earlier in their spree, the gunmen shot to death three people and killed a fourth with grenade in the nearby town of El Higo, Veracruz.

On Thursday, the U.S. Consulate General in Matamoros, a Mexican border city north of where the attacks occurred, said in a statement that "several vehicles," including the buses, were attacked, but did not specify what the other vehicles were.

The consulate urged Americans to "exercise caution" when traveling in Veracruz, and "avoid intercity road travel at night."

While the specific area where the Thursday attacks occurred is not frequented by foreign travelers, other parts of the Huasteca " a hilly, verdant area on the Gulf coast " are popular among Mexican tourists and some foreigners.

The attack occurred near the border with the state of Tamaulipas, an area that has been the scene of bloody battles between the Zetas and Gulf drug cartels.