Nine women and children have been killed in the bloodiest attack on Americans in Mexico by gunmen who were believed to be drug cartel. They were killed on Monday daytime at the border of Chihuahua and Sonora states while travelling in several SUVs.
The victims belonged to the Mexican-American LeBaron, Langford, Miller and Johnson families, members of breakaway Mormon communities that settled in northern Mexico’s hills and plains decades ago.
A video posted on social media showed the charred and smoking remains of a vehicle riddled with bullet holes that was apparently carrying some of the victims on a dirt road when the attack occurred.
A relative, Julian LeBaron, called the incident a massacre and said some family members were burned alive.
He said it was unclear who carried out the attack, Reuters reported.
“We don’t know why, though they had received indirect threats. We don’t know who did it,” he told Reuters.
Mexican Security Minister Alfonso Durazo said the nine, traveling in several SUVs, could have been victims of mistaken identity, given the high number of violent confrontations among warring drug gangs in the area.
But the LeBaron extended family has often been in conflict with drug traffickers in Chihuahua and other relatives of the victims said the killers surely knew who they were targeting.
All of the dead were U.S. citizens, he told Reuters, and most also held dual citizenship with Mexico.
State prosecutors in Sonora, where the dead were found in three separate locations, said ambushed family members had been planning to travel to the United States via Chihuahua.
Authorities are investigating whether a man arrested in Agua Prieta, Sonora with guns and ammunition could have been involved in the killings, prosecutors added.
The victims were members of the small community of La Mora, Sonora, set up decades ago by “pioneers” who broke away from the Mormon church, Langford said.
“They were targeted and they were killed on purpose,” said Langford, who grew up in La Mora and has a homestead there.