US family attacked on notorious stretch of Mexican highway

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CIUDAD VICTORIA, Mexico (AP) — Mexican authorities continued searching Monday for the gunmen responsible for an attack on a sparsely traveled stretch of highway near the Texas border that left a 13-year-old U.S. citizen dead and four relatives wounded.

On Saturday night, a family traveling in two vehicles was attacked on a two-lane highway paralleling the U.S.-Mexico border in the township of Ciudad Mier.

One SUV of attackers passed the family and then cut them off causing them to collide and come to a halt. Gunmen then opened fire, according to a statement from the state of Tamaulipas security coordinating group. All of the wounded came from one of the family’s vehicles, both of which had Oklahoma license plates. The gunmen escaped in another vehicle.

A 10-year-old relative was among those wounded. On Sunday, authorities listed the wounded as in stable condition.

The family was returning to the U.S. after spending the holidays in the central Mexico state of San Luis Potosi. What remained unclear was why the family was on such a dangerous stretch of highway after dark.

The area where the attack occurred is contested by drug cartels.

For years Ciudad Mier was the uppermost edge of the Gulf cartel’s control and Nueva Ciudad Guerrero was the limit for the Nuevo Laredo-based Zetas’. Between them sit uninhabited scrub land.

In 2010, after the Zetas split from the Gulf cartel and established themselves as an organized criminal power through prominent displays of graphic violence, Mier became a battleground for the two cartels and most of its residents abandoned the quaint colonial town.

More recently, however, the Zetas’ splinter group known as the Northeast cartel has been as far downriver as Mier, Miguel Aleman and Camargo, well into what was traditionally the Gulf cartel’s territory.

Photographs from Saturday night’s crime scene showed the Northeast cartel’s Spanish initials — “CDN” — scrawled on the back window of one of the vehicles.

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AP writer Christopher Sherman in Mexico City contributed to this report.

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