LeBarn family relatives say nine victims, mainly children, dead in attack on dirt road between Chihuahua and Sonora states

Cartel gunmen in northern Mexico have killed at least six children and three women in an ambush that left six other children wounded and prompted Donald Trump to call for a war against the countrys drug cartels.

Victims and survivors of the attack near the border between the states of Sonora and Chihuahua all belong to a well-known Mormon family that is based in Mexico but has dual US/Mexican citizenship and deep roots on both sides of the frontier.

The massacre prompted three tweets from Trump urging Mexicos president, Andrs Manuel Lpez Obrador, to wage WAR on the drug cartels and wipe them off the face of the earth and offering US help to do this.

Mondays merciless slaughter of children and their mothers is the latest in a recent string of violent episodes which have piled pressure on Lpez Obrador to modify his softly-softly approach to organized crime.

Initial accounts from local authorities and relatives of the victims differed on several key points, but it appears that the three women were travelling in three SUVs with their children when they were attacked on a remote and unpaved mountain road at around 1pm on Monday.

According to relatives, the three vehicles were travelling from the community of La Mora, Sonora toward Pancho Villa, in Chihuahua. They set out together, but one of them later fell behind because of a flat tire.

Quick guide

Mexico’s evolving war on drugs

Caldern sends in the army

Mexicos war on drugs began in late 2006 when the president at the time, Felipe Caldern, ordered thousands of troops onto the streets in response to an explosion of horrific violence in his native state of Michoacn.

Caldern hoped to smash the drug cartels with his heavily militarized onslaught but the approach was counter-productive and exacted a catastrophic human toll. As Mexicos military went on the offensive, the body count sky-rocketed to new heights and tens of thousands were forced from their homes, disappeared or killed.

Kingpin strategy

Simultaneously Caldern also began pursuing the so-calledkingpin strategyby which authorities sought to decapitate the cartels by targeting their leaders.

That policy resulted in some high-profile scalps notably Arturo Beltrn Leyva who wasgunned down by Mexican marines in 2009 but also did little to bring peace. In fact, many believe such tactics served only to pulverize the world of organized crime, creating even more violence as new, less predictable factions squabbled for their piece of the pie.

Under Calderns successor, Enrique Pea Nieto, the governments rhetoric on crime softened as Mexico sought to shed its reputation as the headquarters of some the worlds most murderous mafia groups.

But Calderns policies largely survived, with authorities targeting prominent cartel leaders such as Sinaloas Joaqun El Chapo Guzmn.

When El Chapo was arrested in early 2016, Mexicos president bragged: Mission accomplished. But the violence went on. By the time Pea Nieto left office in 2018, Mexico had suffered another record year of murders, with nearly 36,000 people slain.

“Hugs not bullets”

The leftwing populist Andrs Manuel Lpez Obrador took power in December, promising a dramatic change in tactics. Lpez Obrador, or Amlo as most call him, vowed to attack the social roots of crime,offering vocational trainingto more than 2.3 million disadvantaged young people at risk of being ensnared by the cartels.

It will be virtually impossible to achieve peace without justice and [social] welfare, Amlo said, promising to slash the murder rate from an average of 89 killings per day with his hugs not bullets doctrine.

Amlo also pledged to chair daily 6am security meetings and create a 60,000 strong “National Guard”. But those measures have yet to pay off, with the new security force used mostly to hunt Central American migrants.

Mexico now suffers an average of about 96 murders per day, with nearly 29,000 people killed since Amlo took office.

That car was the first to be found shot up and burnt out with the bodies of one woman later identified as Rhonita LeBarn her twin babies and two other small children dead inside.

The other two vehicles, driven by Dawna and Christina Langford, were found about 18km (11 miles) further along the road at the top of a hill.

According to a statement released by the Sonora attorney generals office, a woman and two children were found dead in one of the cars. The third woman was found dead a few meters from the third vehicle.

Julin LeBarn, a relative of the victims, said that he reached the scene with the security forces hours later, and opened the door of one of the vehicles to find a baby still inside completely unharmed.

In an interview with Aristegui Noticias, he said it appeared most of the rest of the surviving children had walked 15km (9.3 miles) back to La Mora where they alerted the authorities.

The burnt wreckage of a vehicle in northern Mexico that had been carrying members of the LeBarn family when they were attacked on Monday. Photograph: Kenneth Miller/Lafe Langford JR/Reuters

He said one of the children said their mother had been gunned down after she got out of the car screaming at the attackers to stop shooting.

We are very upset, he said. It is just impossible to understand why they would attack cars full of women and children in two separate incidents.

Another relative, Kendra Miller, said in a Facebook post that the first news of the massacre arrived in La Mora when a 13-year-old survivor got there hours later.

After witnessing his mother and brothers being shot dead, Dawnas son Devin hid his six other siblings in the bushes and covered them with branches to keep them safe while he went for help, she wrote. When he took too long to return, his nine-year-old sister left the remaining five to try again.

Miller wrote that Devins news prompted an armed search party from the community that was soon aborted because of continual shooting in the area. She said the hidden children were not found until 7.30pm, more than six hours after the ambush. The nine-year-old was found lost in the mountains later.

Both the Mexican authorities and relatives said that they believed that cartel gunmen had mistaken the convoy of vehicles for rivals from another group.

It looks like the criminal groups disputing control of the region might have got the vehicles confused, said Alfonso Durazo, the public security secretary.

Durazo was speaking during the daily press conference held by Lpez Obrador that was dominated by the massacre and coincided with Trumps flurry of tweets.

The US president described Lpez Obrador as the great new President of Mexico and called on him to accept US help eliminating the cartels.

The United States stands ready, willing & able to get involved and do the job quickly and effectively, he tweeted. The cartels have become so large and powerful that you sometimes need an army to defeat an army.

After profusely thanking the US president for his offers of help, Lpez Obrador said he wasnt interested.

The worst thing you can have is war, he said. That is not an option.

Lpez Obrador has turned away from the militarized anti-narcotics tactics of his predecessors which failed to stop organized crime and led to widespread human rights abuses.

The president, widely known as Amlo, vowed to pacify the country by waging war on the social roots of crime, but his strategy has so far failed to rein in the violence, and in the first nine months of this year, Mexico suffered an average of close to 100 murders a day.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us


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