Nine American citizens, three women and six children, have been killed in an attack by drug cartel gunmen in northern Mexico.
The victims are members of the LeBaron family, linked to a breakaway Mormon community that settled in Mexico several decades ago.
The victims were travelling in a convoy of vehicles.
The security minister said the group could have been targeted accidentally as a result of mistaken identity.
Sonora state in northern Mexico is being fought over by two rival gangs, La Línea, which has links to the larger Juárez cartel, and “Los Chapos”, which is part of the Sinaloa cartel.
In a tweet 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”.
The US “stands ready”, he said, to offer support to combat the problem of cartel violence and “do the job quickly and effectively”. The FBI has offered to assist Mexican authorities in the investigation, CNN reports.
Mexico’s President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, said Mexico would act with “independence and sovereignty” in pursuing the criminals behind the attack.
A relative of the victims, Alex LeBaron, told CNN that the bodies of the deceased had been returned to their family ranch.
What do we know about the ambush?
A group of three mothers and their 14 children had set off in a convoy of three cars from Bavispe in Sonora state and were heading to the neighbouring state of Chihuahua. The women had been travelling together “for safety reasons”, an unnamed relative told CNN.
Nine people were killed after they were ambushed by gunmen in Bavispe, Mexico.
A burnt-out SUV was later found by the side of the road with the remains of some victims and there are reports that other family members were shot at as they tried to flee.
An investigation has been launched and additional security forces have been sent to the area, the governments of Chihuahua and Sonora said in a joint statement.
Claudia Pavlovich Arellano, governor of the state of Sonora, described the perpetrators as “monsters”.
“As a mother, I feel anger, revulsion and a profound pain for the cowardly acts in the mountains between Sonora and Chihuahua,” she wrote on Twitter, in Spanish.
Julian LeBaron, a cousin of one of the women, said he did not know what could have motivated the killings, which he said had involved two separate attacks.
“We want to know exactly who was behind this, why they did it and from where they are, and we need that information to be true,” he told Mexican radio.
“We don’t know who would attack women and children.”
Who are the victims?
Mr LeBaron gave a detailed account of the attacks in an an interview for Mexican radio station el Heraldo.
His cousin Rhonita Miller, 30, four of her children, two of whom were babies, died in a car in the first attack, he said.
Another cousin, Dawna Ray Langford, 43, and a woman called Christina Langford Johnson, 31 later left in separate cars and were ambushed in a second attack, he said.
Both women were killed, along with two of Ms Ray Langford’s children, aged four and six.
Faith Marie Johnson, seven months old, survived and was found by Mr LeBaron in the car, according to his account.
Seven children escaped, fleeing the scene, five of whom were injured and taken to hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, Mr LeBaron added.
News Source: BBC, CNN
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