On 5 November US President Donald Trump urged Mexico and the United States to jointly “wage war” on drug cartels, following a deadly attack on members of the American Mormon community who had been living in Mexico for decades.
Three American families from the Mormon community, including three mothers and 14 children, were brutally attacked in Northern Mexico, leaving nine of them dead, as revealed by the Mexican security minister this week.
The question remains as to why Mormon families were so cruelly targeted in the first place. No official explanation for the brutal murders of three women and six children has been given so far. However, different versions have emerged from the authorities and relatives of the families, citing local territorial disputes, between the Los Salazar faction of the Sinaloa Cartel and the rival Juarez gang.
Members of breakaway Mormon communities that settled in the territory decades ago travelled through Sonora state in a convoy and chose to settle near Chihuahua state and Arizona, so they could easily visit relatives. Mexico’s Chief of Staff for National Defence Gen. Homero Mendoza Ruiz and some other officials suggested that the murdered families could have been confused with criminal groups that were fighting for control in the region.
However, the relatives of the deceased do not agree with that version, as reported by Reuters, arguing that personal belongings found near the cars that were set on fire, following the shelling, suggested that attackers were close enough to their victims to avoid mistaking their identities.
“We were deliberately targeted, used as bait to lure one cartel by another,” said Lafe Langford, a relative of some of the victims from the Mormon village.
“They shot us up, burned our vehicles to send a smoke signal into the sky,” Langford added, insisting that the brutal killing was made in a bid to draw the Sinaloa gunmen into battle, following a territorial dispute between the groups.
Mexican Cartels’ Dispute
Officials claimed that several hours before the attack, several gunmen from the La Linea arm of the Chihuahua-based Juarez Cartel were sent to the area following raids on a nearby town by an arm of the Sinaloa Cartel. Two Cartels have been embroiled in a territorial dispute for years, fighting for control of routes used to move cocaine and other drugs into the United States, with the Juarez Cartel wanting to drive its rival off its territory.
Unidentified gunmen were said to have opened fire on the families when they were spread along a 20-km stretch of road near the US-Mexican border. The driver of a white Chevrolet Suburban, Christina Marie Langford Johnson, reportedly stepped out of her car to show the killers that they were not gang members and was immediately shot. Her child managed to survive the attack.
The driver of another car Dawna Langford and two of her sons were also killed, while her uninjured son Devin walked for 23 km searching for help, and managed to hide six of his siblings. The third car with Rhonita Miller and four of her children was shot and then blown-up, killing all inside.
Trump Urges Mexico to Wage War on Drug Cartels
US President Donald Trump turned to Twitter on Tuesday urging Mexico to wage war on drug cartels following the incident, offering its neighbour assistance with “cleaning out monsters”.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador later thanked Donald Trump for his willingness to help the country and pledged that justice would be done and the perpetrators would be punished.
Mexico started its offensive against drug cartels in 2006, but some argue that this has led to even more violence, as targeted groups began fighting among themselves more intensively.
In July 2019, the Mexican drug lord and leader of Sinaloa Cartel Joaquin Guzman, also known as El Chapo, was sentenced to life in prison by the US on various charges related to his leadership of the group.