9 American Mormons killed in Mexico
At least three women and six children from an American Mormon community in northern Mexico have been killed in an ambush in an area notorious for drug traffickers and bandits, a relative said.
The government deployed the army to fight drug trafficking in 2006, but experts blame the so-called “drug war” for the spiraling violence between fragmented cartels and the military, which has lead to more than 250,000 murders.
Julian Lebaron said his cousin was traveling with her four children to the airport when she was attacked and shot in Rancho de la Mora, an area near the United States border.
“It was a massacre,” Lebaron, an activist who has denounced criminal groups in the area, told Formula Radio.
His cousin’s van had been set on fire with the victims inside, he said.
Two other vehicles were found several hours later, containing the bodies of two women and a boy and a girl of about 10 years old.
At least five other children — one of whom was shot and wounded — managed to escape and walk home, and a girl was reported missing after having run into the woods to hide, Lebaron added.
The Chihuahua state prosecutor, Cesar Augusto Peniche, said the number of victims remains “confused.”
The attack took place between Chihuahua and Sonora states. Communication with the mountainous area is also difficult, Peniche said.
When asked who might be responsible, Lebaron said the attack took place in a “war zone,” home to drug cartels and “thugs.”
His family “may have been caught in crossfire or targeted by mistake”, he said, but added that the Mormon community had recently been the target of threats.
They are descendants of Mormons who fled the US in the 19th century after being persecuted for their traditions, including polygamy.
One former member is George Romney, father of 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who was born in 1907 in Colonia Dublan in Chihuahua state, according to an NBC report on Monday.
It is not the first time the family has been targeted. Lebaron’s sibling, Benjamin, founder of a crime-fighting group called SOS Chihuahua, was assassinated in 2009 after he led protests over the kidnapping of his 16-year-old brother. The Mormons refused to pay the ransom and the young Lebaron was eventually released.