Mormon Family Killed In Northern Mexico
NOEL KING, HOST:
Mexican authorities say nine members of a single family were ambushed and killed in a rural area of northern Mexico. They were not far from the U.S. border. The family's part of a Mormon community that has lived for decades in this area. And they were dual citizens of both the U.S. and Mexico. NPR's Carrie Kahn is on the line from Mexico City. Hi, Carrie.
CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Hi, Noel.
KING: All right. So a terrible set of circumstances here - what do we know about this attack so far?
KAHN: It occurred yesterday as three women set off in three cars with their 14 children. And they crossed over the state line from between Sonora, Mexico, and Chihuahua right there on the northern border. And one of the cars was attacked by gunfire. It exploded, or it was set on fire. It's unclear what happened to the two other cars. But authorities say, in all, three women and six children were killed.
KING: OK. Reports say that this family are members of an offshoot of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. What do we know about the family and about their affiliation?
KAHN: Sure. That group has lived in this area since the 1920s. And they're a splinter group that left the church. And we - NPR did contact the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Utah, and they said that they do not believe that they are members. And this group split off in the 1920s as a polygamous group. They were an extended community named after the first settlers there, the LeBaron family. Where they live is very rural farm country. It has been a violent area for years in disputed territory between drug traffickers.
A video posted to Facebook shows one of the burned-out cars and a man who is the patriarch of the community talking in English and just saying the woman driver and the four kids in the car, including two 6-month-old twins, who he says were his grandkids, were killed there. The family, in the past, have been outspoken about organized crime in the region. One member was actually kidnapped in the 2000s, and another was killed over their activism against organized crime.
KING: Have the Mexican authorities identified who's responsible for this?
KAHN: There's a lot of speculation. They're saying possibly that it was a case of mistaken identity. In the morning press conference this morning by the president, he said that he did not want to speculate but that those who perpetrated this horrific crime would be brought to justice. His security chief, however, spoke at the same press conference and said that family members themselves had said they didn't believe the family had been targeted. And he wasn't sure if the family had requested protection.
KING: OK. Now, in the meantime this morning, President Trump has been tweeting about the murders, and he's been offering assistance. What has he been saying?
KAHN: He did tweet this morning. He said that 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. He did offer assistance to Mexico to strike back at the cartels, tweeting that, quote, "they have become so large and powerful that sometimes you need an army to defeat an army."
And at the morning press conference, Mexico's president says that he will call the president this morning and discuss that assistance. He was very thankful for it, but all assistance would be through treaties and reiterated Mexico's sovereignty to deal with their own problems. You know, the president here has been under a lot of criticism for his strategy against the drug cartels. And again, he has defended it as saying that this is a lamentable event that occurred, but what happened is not going to change his approach. He had - takes on a very noninterventionist approach. He says, you cannot fight fire with fire. And he is not going to back down on that.
KING: OK. NPR's Carrie Kahn on the line from Mexico City - Carrie, thank you so much.
KAHN: You're welcome.
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