Mormons flee Mexico after ‘massacre’ by drug cartels
US Mormons who re-settled in Mexico are fleeing the country after a “massacre” by drug cartels that left nine women and children dead.
Around 100 members of the religious community packed up their belongings and are travelling north in an 18-vehicle caravan, with more expected to follow.
They are leaving the site their ancestors settled in nearly 70 years ago after an ambush on the LeBaron Mormon family.
Three cars were shot at and one was set on fire, survivors said, as they travelled along a dirt road in northern Mexico earlier this week.
Family member Julian LeBaron described the attack as a “massacre”, saying some of those targeted were burnt alive.
A 13-year-old boy escaped, walking 14 miles in six hours, to break the news to others in the hamlet of La Mora where he lived.
Seven other children survived, despite most of them being shot – including in the face, back and foot.
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The victims were identified by a relative as Christina Marie Langford Johnson, 29; Dawna Langford, 43; Trevor Langford, 11, and two-and-a-half year old Rogan Langford.
Others killed were Rhonita Miller, 30; Howard Miller, 12; Krystal Miller, 10; and eight-month-old twins Titus and Tiana Miller. The five were all shot and burned in their vehicle.
The spread-out Mormon community moved to Mexico in the 1950s, after the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints denounced polygamy, forcing some followers in the US with multiple wives to move elsewhere.
It has 16 million members worldwide.
Bryce Langford, whose mother was one of the women killed, said the community had become increasingly aware of cartel hitmen in the area recently, leading some to consider moving.
But after Monday’s attack, they decided they had to leave for their own safety, he told the Arizona Daily Star.
“The assets that they’ve acquired down there are tremendous,” Mr Langford.
“And to have to up and leave from one day to the next and leave all that behind, there’s definitely a lot of sad people here.”
Leah Langford-Staddon, who has already arrived in Tucson, Arizona, to stand watch at a hospital where five of the injured children are being treated, said her mother and sister were headed there with as many belongings as they could pack into their vehicles.
“They spent the whole day yesterday packing. It was frantic,” she recalled. “When it comes down to it, it’s just things that can be replaced.”
Those leaving plan to scatter among their different relatives for now, but they would love to eventually settle together in a new place, Ms Langford-Staddon added.