MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Gunmen killed nine women and children in the bloodiest attack on Americans in Mexico for years, prompting U.S. President Donald Trump to offer to help the neighboring country wipe out drug cartels believed to be behind the ambush.
All nine people killed in Monday’s daytime attack at the border of Chihuahua and Sonora belonged to the Mexican-American LeBaron family, members of a breakaway Mormon community 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 the victims on a dirt road when the attack occurred.
“This is for the record,” says a male voice speaking English in an American accent, off camera, choking with emotion.
“Nita and four of my grandchildren are burnt and shot up.”
Reuters could not independently verify the video.
A relative, Julian LeBaron, called the incident a massacre and said some family members were burned alive.
In a text message to Reuters he wrote that four boys, two girls and three women were killed. Several children who fled the attack were lost for hours in the countryside before being found, he said.
He said it was unclear who carried out the attack.
“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, may 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 a relative of the victims said the killers surely knew who they were targeting.
“We’ve been here for more than 50 years. There’s no-one who doesn’t know them. Whoever did this was aware. That’s the most terrifying,” said Alex LeBaron, a relative, in one of the villages inhabited by the extended family.
He said all of the dead were U.S. citizens, and most also held dual citizenship with Mexico.
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