Cartel rivalry behind Mormon killings: Mexico

Mexico alleged on Wednesday that a drug cartel called “La Linea” massacred nine Mormon women and children in a case of mistaken identity, but devastated relatives insisted their loved ones were deliberately targeted.

The three women and six children, who had dual U.S.-Mexican citizenship, were killed in a hail of bullets on Monday as they drove on a rural road between Sonora and Chihuahua, which border the United States.

Eight other children managed to escape, six of them wounded. The case has caused shock on both sides of the border and prompted U.S. President Donald Trump to call for a “war” on Mexican cartels.

The head of the Mexican military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, Homero Mendoza, said authorities now believe the massacre was carried out by La Linea (The Line, a drug cartel based in Chihuahua. He said investigations indicated the group had sent a squad to the lawless mountain region where the attack occurred to fend off potential incursions by a rival gang, Los Salazar, which is based in Sonora, after recent clashes between the two.

But relatives of those killed rejected it being a case of mistaken identity, saying they believe their family was deliberately targeted. “I have to emphasise there was no duelling cartels and there was no crossfire that our family were caught up in. They were murdered — massacred — solely by one acting cartel from Chihuahua,” said family member Lafe Langford Jr..

Adran LeBaron, the father and grandfather of some of the victims, said that according to two of the surviving children, their aunt exited her SUV, arms raised in surrender, only to be mowed down with gunfire. “So where is the mistaken identity? There was no mistake here,” he told Mexican TV network Televisa.

The two families involved, the LeBarons and Langfords, have been targeted by criminal groups in the past.

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