A group of at least nine mothers, children and infants have been burned alive and shot to death in a horrific massacre authorities said could be a possible case of ‘mistaken identity’.
A convoy of three vehicles carrying US citizens was travelling through a northern Mexican state when the group was ambushed by gunmen.
Nine members of a Mormon community living in Mexico were reportedly killed, including three women and six children – two of them eight-month-old twins.
Mexican authorities say the convoy of three mothers and 14 children may have been accidentally targeted in the region which is home to rival drug cartels – La Linea and Los Chapos.
The country has been fighting a war on drug cartels for more than a decade, with regular gruesome attacks and violent bloodshed, but this attack has sparked particular outrage.
The Mormon group, which has been living in Mexico for decades, has been targeted in the past for standing up to the cartels but on this occasion a family member said they had not received any threats.
A cousin of the victims, Kendra Miller, posted an update on Facebook, saying the cars had been driving from their community in the mountains of the state of Sonora – two of them to see family in neighbouring Chihuahua and one to pick up her husband from an airport in Phoenix, Arizona.
“They never made it,” Ms Miller wrote.
“They were ambushed by the Mexican cartels; shot, burned, and murdered in cold blood. These were innocent civilians, American citizens simply trying to live peaceful lives.”
“The first vehicle was found full of bullet holes and completely ablaze.
“Nita and the four of her seven children she had taken on the trip were burned to mostly ashes and only a few charred bones left to identify that all five had been inside.
“On another part of the road, about 10 miles ahead, were Christina, with her baby Faith in her vehicle, and Dawna with nine children in hers.
“They both were fired upon from ahead and Christina jumped out waving her arms to let the attackers know that it was women and children in the vehicles.
“She gave her life to try and save the rest. Dawna and two of her boys were also killed in the gunfire.”
Ms Miller said one of Dawna’s sons hid his six siblings in the bushes and covered them with branches while he went for help, taking six hours to reach LaMora.
She listed the dead as Rhonita Maria Miller, 30, and children Howard, 12, Krystal, 10, and twins Titus and Tiana, 8 months; Christina Marie Langford Johnson, 29; Dawna Ray Langford, 43, and children Trevor, 11 and Rogan, 2.
Other members suffered injuries including an eight-year-old boy shot in the jaw and leg, a four-year-old boy shot in the back and a nine-month-old baby shot in the chest.
They are all reported to be members of the extended LeBaron family.
Investigators found more than 200 spent shell casings, mostly from assault rifles, at the scene which stretched for kilometres.
US President Donald Trump described the victims as a group of “wonderful family and friends” who “got caught between two vicious drug cartels, who were shooting at each other”.
Mr Trump urged the Mexican president to “wage war” on drug cartels and said the US would help.
“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!” he tweeted.
“The cartels have become so large and powerful that you sometimes need an army to defeat an army!”
A wonderful family and friends from Utah got caught between two vicious drug cartels, who were shooting at each other, with the result being many great American people killed, including young children, and some missing. If Mexico needs or requests help in cleaning out these…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 5, 2019
The religious community has been settled in northern Mexico for decades and is part of a breakaway Mormon sect that left the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the early 20th century because of its stance against polygamy.
The governments of the states of Sonora and Chihuahua both released statements confirming an investigation had been launched.
Mexican president Lopez Obrador, who faces criticism for his country’s handling of drug violence, said he would welcome help but did not want Mexico’s independence compromised.
“I’ll speak with President Trump to thank him for his support, and to see if in cooperation agreements there’s the possibility of getting help,” he told a news conference.
“I don’t think we need the intervention of a foreign government to deal with these cases,” he added.
Mexico Security Minister Alfonso Durazo said the killings were possibly mistaken identity.
Family members took to social media imploring Mexico and the USA to address the increasing violence in the region.
They posted a video said to have been taken after the attack, showing a burnt out SUV riddled with bullet holes.
To the citizens of the United States Of America, Mexico and to HUMAN BEINGS across the world….THIS IS A DEVELOPING STORY THAT IS HAPPENING NOW..NEW DETAILS ARE ARRIVING BY THE SECOND….THIS IS ONGOING. AS OF NOVEMBER 4TH 7:00 PM CENTRAL TIME…..it is with heavy hearts and unspeakable sadness we inform you that the 2 missing Mothers Christina Langford and Dawna Langford along with many of their precious INNOCENT children have been slaughtered and gone to their Rest. We've had no help from the powers and authorities that be as of yet ….one of the older boys escaped with 6 of his siblings and he was able to run home to La Mora Municipio Bavispe Sonora Mexico after leaving his wounded, bleeding, and bullet ridden brothers and sisters hiding behind trees from the ONGOING shootout between the cartels. Teenagers and adults have been scrambling into the mountains to find our loved ones..risking their very own lives….while help is nowhere to be found… GOD HELP US IN JESUS NAME WE PRAY.Attention all of the World. We are a community of US citizens that live and operate between Mexico and the United States we are under attack as we speak by the cartels in Mexico… We have been petitioning the American embassies in Mexico all day long to no Avail… we need this to be shared and the whole world to witness the atrocious inhumane and barbaric acts that were committed against us today, Rhonita Miller and her 4 children were shot up and burned to death in this vehicle and at this very moment there are TWO more suburbans with 2 of our families totaling 2 wives and 10 children that are missing and/or kidnapped by the cartel….. We need help immediately!!..
Posted by Lafe Langford Jr on Monday, November 4, 2019