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9 members of Mormon family killed in ambush in northern Mexico

Gunmen ambushed members of a Mormon community near a town in northern Mexico on Monday morning, killing three women and six children, and wounding five other children. 

Social media posts from family members and statements from Mexican officials confirmed the brutal attack, and provided new details about the assault and the victims — members of a Mormon community who are dual citizens of the U.S. and Mexico. 

Around 9:30 a.m., three women with 14 of their children, were driving toward Bavispe, Sonora, about 70 miles southeast of Douglas, Ariz., when they were ambushed near Rancho La Mora between Sonora and Chihuahua, the Mexican newspaper El Diario reported

Julián LeBarón, a member of family told Animal Politico, a Mexican news outlet, that two of the women wanted to visit family in Chihuahua, while the third planned to head to Phoenix to pick up her husband at the airport. 

"They never made it. They were ambushed by the Mexican cartels; shot, burned, and murdered in cold blood," posted Jhon LeBarón on Facebook. "These were innocent civilians,  American citizens simply trying to live peaceful lives." 

Members of the family blasted the Mexican government, including President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. In recent weeks, cartel-linked violence has rocked the country, beginning with the ambush and murder of 14 police officers in Michoacan, and highlighted by a fiasco in Culiacan, when military forces attempted to arrest the son of former Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán.

As officials detained Ovidio Guzmán López, cartel gunman armed with .50-caliber rifles and ad-hoc tanks swarmed the city, leading to rolling gun battles in the city. Government officials ordered the release of Guzmán fearing that Mexican soldiers would be massacred, leading to questions about the president's security plan, and his ability to deal with the country's drug cartels. 

"This is how we live under the government" of Lopez Obrador, said Alex LeBaron on Twitter. "Mexican Mormons, innocent women and children were ambushed in the Chihuahua sierra, shot and burned alive by the Cartels that rule in Mexico!"

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As members of the LeBarón family drove toward Bavispe in Chevy Suburbans, they were ambushed by an unknown number of attackers, who shot at the cars. 

The shots set the car ablaze, killing Rhonita Maria Miller, 30, as well as four children, including 12-year-old Howard Jacob Miller and 10-year-old Kyrstal Bellaine Miller, and eight-month old twins, Titus Alvin Miller and Tiana Gricel Miller. 

The newspaper El Dario de Juárez reported that the vehicle caught on fire because of shots to the gas tank. 

"Nita and the four of her seven children she had taken on the trip were burned mostly to ashes and only a few charred bones left to identify that all give had been inside," family members said. 

Further down the road, the attackers also ambushed Christina Marie Langford, 30 and Dawna Ray Langford, 43. According to the family, Christina Langford jumped out of the car, waving her arms and telling the attackers that women and children were inside the vehicles, but she was killed, along with Dawna and two of her sons, 11-year-old Trevor Harvey Langford, and 2-year-old Roger Jay Langford. 

"She gave her life to try and save the rest," wrote LeBarón. 

Devin Blake Langford, 13, saw his mother and brothers killed, and he hid his siblings—most of them wounded by gunfire—in the bushes and covered them with branches to keep them safe while he went for help, the family said. 

When he took too long, his 9-year-old sister Mckenzie also went to get help. 

Residents of the area reported that during the attack, communication networks collapsed, El Dario reported

Around 1:18 p.m., Julián Lebarón asked for help from Mexico's National Guard. Members of the National Guard, as well as state officials, and police from Zaragoza, Janos and Moctezuma, Chihuahua deployed to help the family, and find the missing children. 

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Around 5 p.m., soldiers from the military garrison in Agua Prieta, just across the border from Douglas, were deployed. 

Devin arrived at LaMora at 5:30 p.m., six hours after the initial attack, and immediately told other family members about the attack. Mckenzie remained missing for several hours, but was later found unharmed. 

Devin's uncles armed themselves with guns, and tried to find the missing children, but were stymied by continual shooting all over LaMora, the family said. 

Around 6 p.m., Julián Lebarón and residents of Galeana began to search for survivors, with the aid of federal and state authorities, reported Animal Politico. 

With reinforcements, they began to search for the children that Devin hid and found them around 7:30 p.m., discovering that five of them were wounded. 

LeBarón said that he found one of the Suburbans riddled by bullet impacts, and inside the vehicle were the burned bodies of a woman and four children. 

"I found Christina. She was outside her car, face down, assassinated, and I found her baby, who was still alive," LeBarón said to Ciro Gómez Leyva, host of a news show on Radio Formula.

While the car was riddled with bullet holes, Faith had remained untouched, and was on the floor of the vehicle, in her car seat, which "looked to have been hurriedly placed on the floor of the vehicle by her mother for protection," family members wrote. 

They were treated at a local hospital until a Mexican military helicopter transported them to a waiting medical helicopter at the U.S. border, and they were flown to a hospital in Phoenix. 

Mexican soldiers arrived by then, and the men of LaMora and nearby towns searched for two hours in the dark before they found Mckenzie around 9:30 p.m. The girl, grazed by a bullet, walked about 10 miles, including for about 4 hours in the dark trying to get back to LaMora. 

Among the wounded children was 9-month-old Brixon Oliver Langford, who was shot in the chest, and also was grazed by a bullet on the wrist. 

Xander Boe Langford, 4, was shot in the back. 

Cody Greyson Langford, 8, was shot in the jaw and the leg, and family members said his condition was "worrying, but at last word, not critical."

Kylie Evelyn Langford, 14, was shot in the foot. 

Mckenzie Ranye Langford, 9, was grazed by a bullet on her arm. 

Jake Ryder Langford, 6, was unharmed along with 7-month-old Faith. 

Family members set up a crowd-funding account on GoFundMe and asked for donations to help the family travel to be together,  as well as pay for medical and funeral expenses.

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The LeBarons are the descendants of Mormons who moved to northern Mexico in 1924 to practice polygamy after the practice had been abandoned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints north of the border. While polygamy had largely faded from the community, fundamentalist Mormons continue to live and work in quiet farming communities in Mexico while keeping close ties to the United States. 

However, as organized-crime groups seized control of the area south of Arizona, the family became a target of extortion and kidnapping. In 2008, Benjamin LeBaron, 31, was shot dead after publicly denounced drug traffickers, who had kidnapped his young brother, demanding a $1 million ransom, the Washington Post reported. The family refused to pay, and the killers left a message that the murder of Benjamin LeBaron was in retaliation. 

U.S. Ambassador Christopher Landau has been traveling through Sonora, and he tweeted, "The security of our fellow citizens is our priority."

"I am following closely the situation in the mountains between Sonora and Chihuahua," he said.

President Donald Trump also weighed in: "This is the time for Mexico, with the help of the United States, to make the WAR to drug cartels and erase them from the face of the earth. We simply await a call from your great new president!" 

López Obrador responded that while there is cooperation between both countries,  the Mexican government that is responsible for investigation and finding those responsible for the attack on the family. 

"In relations between Mexico and the United States there is cooperation, this is one of the issues. However, it is a matter that belongs to us, to attend the Mexican government independently and asserting our sovereignty," he said. 

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey while heading to a binational conference in Hermosillo, urged people to follow advisories about travel into Mexico, the Arizona Capitol Times reported.

“Please join me in praying for these Americans – those we’ve lost, those still missing and for the families and loved ones who are grieving,” Ducey wrote on Twitter Tuesday morning. 

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via Facebook

A still from the video captured by the family that shows one of the Chevy Suburbans still smoldering after an ambush by gunmen killed 9 people, including three adults and six children near Rancho La Mora, about 70 miles southeast of Douglas, Arizona.