Updated at 11:35 a.m. ET
Three women and six children were killed in an attack on an extended Mormon family as they traveled in Mexico on Monday, Mexican officials say. All of those killed were reportedly U.S. citizens, and authorities say they might have been ambushed by gang members.
The victims are part of the LeBaron family, members of which have lived in Mexico for decades since splitting off from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints following its move away from polygamy.
“Local reports say the family may have been mistakenly attacked by rival cartels fighting for territory,” NPR’s Carrie Kahn reports from Mexico City.
Details have been slow to emerge. The group was attacked as they moved in a small convoy of vehicles between the states of Chihuahua and Sonora. Video from the scene shows that at least one vehicle was burned and had what appeared to be multiple bullet holes.
In addition to the nine killed, six children were injured and one minor was unharmed — and another minor is believed to be missing, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Security Minister Alfonso Durazo said at a news conference Tuesday morning.
In response to the attack, President Trump said, “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.”
Trump offered to aid Mexico if it needs help “cleaning out” the attackers, whom he dubbed “monsters.”
“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!” Trump said via Twitter.
Mexico Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard says his agency has been in touch with U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Christopher Landau since Monday regarding the killings, which he called a tragedy.
“The security of our nationals is our top priority,” Landau said via Twitter. He added, “I am following the situation in the mountains between Sonora and Chihuahua very closely.”
Jhon LeBaron, a family member who was not with the group that was attacked, posted news of the killings on his Facebook page. “My heart is completely broken,” he wrote.
“Just got word both my Aunt Dawna and Christina have been killed, the Cartel murdered them and several of their babies,” LeBaron said. “They left 6 of Dawna’s kids on the side of the road and took off. My aunt Dawna’s son Devon hid some of his shot and wounded siblings in the bushes and ran all the way back to town for help.”
Authorities have not publicly identified all of the victims or the circumstances of their deaths. But in an update to his original posting, LeBaron shared more details from a cousin, Kendra Miller, who said the group consisted of three mothers and 14 children and that they had been driving together in three SUVs.
Two of the women were traveling to see relatives in Chihuahua, and one was driving to the U.S. to pick up her husband from the airport in Phoenix, according to Miller. She added that the vehicles were found in two separate areas, about 10 miles apart.
Miller listed the dead in one vehicle as:
-Rhonita Maria Miller, 30
-Howard Jacob Miller Jr., 12
-Krystal Bellaine Miller, 10
-Titus Alvin Miller and Tiana Gricel Miller, both 8 months (twins)
“All shot and burned in their vehicle,” she said, adding, “Only ashes and a few bones remain.”
Miller named the other four victims as Christina Marie Langford Johnson, 29, and Dawna Ray Langford, 40, along with children Trevor Harvey Langford, 11, and Rogan Jay Langford, 2.
One child was apparently found in a bullet-riddled vehicle without any injuries. Miller said 7-month-old Faith Marie Johnson was “found in her car seat that seemed to be put on the floor, by her mother to try and protect her.”