American Consulate reiterates travel warning amid bus hijacking reports
Mon, 18 Jul 2011 22:34:34 GMT —
American officials are reiterating a Tamaulipas travel warning after reports that at least three passengers buses were hijacked south of the border in San Fernando.
Tamaulipas residents reported that three buses were headed into the interior of Mexico when they were hijacked on Saturday.
An anonymous law enforcement official told the McAllen Monitor that cartel gunmen stormed the buses diverted them to an area near Soto La Marina, Tamaulipas.
The Monitor reported that a bus driver helped a group of passengers with a cell phone escape.
The McAllen-based newspaper reported that Mexican marines and federal police arrived in the area while the gunmen reportedly fled.
The alleged incident comes days after Tamaulipas officials held a press conference to assure visitors that the state TMs highways are safe for summer tourists.
Mexican authorities remained tight-lipped about the incident over the weekend and on Monday.
Neither the Tamaulipas Attorney General TMs Office nor the Attorney General TMs Office in Mexico City reported having knowledge about the incident.
Federal police could not be reached for comment while the Mexican Navy reported that marines were only called to scene to support the lead investigators.
Consul Michael Barkin with the American Consulate in Matamoros reported his office is aware about media reports regarding the incident.
Barkin said the consulate has no information of any Americans being kidnapped off any buses.
But the consul said his office is reiterating an April 8th warning about intercity passenger bus travel in Tamaulipas.
The warning states that passenger buses passing through have been targeted by gunmen for robbery and kidnapping.
The alleged weekend hijackings come three months after the discovery of 193 bodies in a series of mass graves in and around San Fernando.
Victims from the narcograves were believed to have been abducted aboard passenger buses traveling through the area.
Authorities have arrested dozens of members of the Zetas drug cartel for their alleged roles in the murders.
Officials have only been able to identify and return 23 bodies to family members.
So far, only one American has been identified as being among the victims.
Warden Message to Inform U.S. Citizens about the Potential Dangers of Inter-City Bus Travel in Tamaulipas April 8, 2011
The United States Consulate General in Matamoros advised U.S. Citizens of the potential hazards of highway travel in Tamaulipas on November 12, 2010 and re-issued the message on January 7, 2011. The messages focused on the dangers of traveling in private vehicles. In addition to those messages, recent reports indicate that inter-city buses are increasingly being targeted by armed individuals for robbery and kidnapping.
From late March to early April, the Consulate received three reports from American Citizens or their families regarding inter-city buses being boarded by criminals. In at least one instance, male bus passengers, including an American citizen, were forcibly removed from those buses and have yet to be located. The Consulate General strongly encourages those American Citizens considering travel through Tamaulipas by bus, as well as by automobile, to keep these risks in mind.
We encourage U.S. citizens living or traveling abroad to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration web site at https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ui/ so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security. Americans without Internet access may register in person or by phone with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.
We strongly encourage U.S. citizens to maintain a high level of vigilance, be aware of local events, and take the appropriate steps to bolster their personal security. For additional information, please refer to "A Safe Trip Abroad" found at http://travel.state.gov.
For any emergencies involving American citizens in the Matamoros consular district, please call or visit the American Citizens Services (ACS) Unit at the U.S. Consulate General on Avenida Primera 2002, Col. Jardin, Matamoros, Tamaulipas; telephone (011)(52)(868) 812-4402. http://matamoros.usconsulate.gov/.