A roadside ambush carried out by gunmen in northern Mexico this week has resulted in the massacre of at least nine United States citizens.
According to The New York Times, three adult women and six children were murdered Monday when the gunmen approached their vehicles on the road, opening fire and eventually setting one car ablaze.
The deceased are all members of the LeBarón family, “who have lived in a fundamentalist Mormon community in the border region” since the 1940s, according to The Times.
A surviving relative told the outlet his family members were split between three vehicles. Julian LeBarón said his cousin, Rhonita, was driving to Phoenix in one of the cars to pick up her husband.
Her husband works stateside in North Dakota, as do many other members of the LeBarón family.
The two were set to celebrate their wedding anniversary this week.
Instead, however, Rhonita and four children in the car were killed when their vehicle broke down and was attacked. Among the dead was an 11-year-old boy, a 9-year-old girl and a set of twins who had not yet reached their first birthdays.
Eight miles up the road, the other two vehicles were ambushed, with gunmen taking the lives of the two remaining women, as well as a 6-year-old girl and 4-year-old boy.
According to the family, seven LeBarón children were later discovered by Mexican authorities, hiding near the scene of the massacre.
“When you know there are babies tied in a car seat that are burning because of some twisted evil that’s in this world,” Kenny LeBarón, a cousin of the dead women, told The Times, “it’s just hard to cope with that.”
“They intentionally murdered those people,” Julian LeBarón said. “We don’t know what their motives were.”
Local authorities have been unable to provide specific details on the matter.
An official motive had not been ascertained as of Tuesday morning, and authorities were not unwilling to rule out mistaken identity or a random act of violence.
However, The Times reported that the LeBaróns are “historically” outspoken regarding overwhelming organized crime presence in Mexico’s northern provinces of Sonora and Chihuahua.
The family had already lost two members to a kidnapping-turned-double murder just a decade ago after confronting a powerful local cartel, a previous Times report detailed.
Benjamin LeBarón was an anti-crime activist before he and his brother-in-law, Luis Widmar, were killed by the cartel in 2009.
According to Reuters, the first half of 2019 saw a record surge in violence throughout the nation of Mexico.
There were 14,603 murders recorded in the country in the first six months of the year — more than the 13,985 homicides recorded over the same period last year.
President Donald Trump addressed the surge in violence Tuesday in light of the attack on the LeBaróns, calling on Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to “wage WAR on the drug cartels.”
This is the time for Mexico, with the help of the United States, to wage WAR on the drug cartels and wipe them off the face of the earth. We merely await a call from your great new president!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 5, 2019
“This is the time for Mexico, with the help of the United States, to wage WAR on the drug cartels and wipe them off the face of the earth,” Trump wrote.
“We merely await a call from your great new president!”
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