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State Department warns of travel to Mexico border

At least 27 Americans have been kidnapped in past 6 months

People cross from the U.S. into Mexico at the Paso del Norte border crossing in Juarez, Mexico.
U.S. State Department

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- At least 27 Americans have been abducted along the border with Mexico in the past six months because of increased violence among drug traffickers, prompting the U.S. State Department to issue a warning to travelers.

Of the 27, two were killed, 14 were released and 11 remain missing, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Thursday.

The abductions do not include "express" kidnappings in which Americans are forced to withdraw large sums of money from ATMs before they are released, Boucher said.

Boucher said he understood the Mexican government may not be happy with the travel warning, but "we do feel that it's important to tell Americans about the security situation near the border."

"We have worked closely with Mexican authorities to take the appropriate steps to ensure the safety and the security of U.S. citizens in Mexico," Boucher said.

"And in situations where Americans are victims of crime, we do follow those cases very closely as the Mexican authorities try to arrest and prosecute those who are responsible."

Boucher emphasized that "a vast majority" of Mexicans and Americans crossing the border do so "without any mishaps or difficulties."

In its public announcement released Wednesday, the State Department said "violent criminal activity along the U.S.-Mexico border has increased as a product of a war between criminal organizations struggling for control of the lucrative narcotics trade along the border."

An underpaid and under-trained police force in Mexico and a weak judicial system add to the problems, according to the warning.

"Criminals, armed with an impressive array of weapons, know there is little chance they will be caught and punished," according to the statement.

"In some cases, assailants have been wearing full or partial police uniforms and have used vehicles that resemble police vehicles, indicating some elements of the police might be involved."

The travel warning, which expires April 25, calls on Americans to avoid areas where illicit activity occurs, "visiting only legitimate business and tourism areas of border towns during daylight hours."

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