U.S. girl killed in highway attack near border in Mexico

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - A 13-year-old American girl was killed over the weekend after the vehicle she and her family were traveling in came under fire on a highway south of the Mexican border city of Nuevo Laredo, state security officials said on Monday.

The attack took place in the violent Gulf coast state of Tamaulipas near the town of Ciudad Mier, about 80 miles (130 km) south of Nuevo Laredo, which lies opposite Laredo, Texas.

The area is known as a hot spot in Mexico’s long-running drug war where rival cartels battle over lucrative cross-border smuggling routes and control of other illicit activities.

The girl’s 10-year-old brother, also a U.S. citizen, was injured in the attack, along with the children’s parents, who are Mexican nationals but legal residents of the United States, a state security source told Reuters.

The boy plus his 48-year-old father and 42-year-old mother all remain in a local hospital, the source said, who described their condition as “serious but stable.”

The source said the family was traveling Saturday night on an isolated stretch of highway.

Tamaulipas state security officials said in a statement on Sunday the family lives in the United States, and that an investigation had been launched.

“Initial reports indicate the victims were traveling Saturday evening toward the border to continue on to the United States, where they reside, when armed individuals stopped them and shot at them,” the statement said.

The family was traveling in a truck and accompanied by another vehicle driven by relative who was also injured in the attack, the statement said.

Both vehicles had Oklahoma license plates.

The statement said a third vehicle with Tamaulipas plates was found at the scene and was likely used by the attackers, then abandoned after a collision.

Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz; Writing by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Lisa Shumaker