Mexican national police and military forces were dispatched to the border state of Sonora on a search operation Monday night following reports that at least five U.S. citizens, including four children, were shot and killed, Mexican authorities said.
The Associated Press quoted relatives as saying a U.S. woman, her 6-month-old twins and two other children, ages 8 and 10, died in the attack. They lived in La Mora, about 75 miles south of the U.S. border, where an offshoot of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been a major presence for many years, the relatives said.
El Universal, one of Mexico’s largest newspapers, quoted other relatives as saying as many as 12 members of a Mormon family were killed in what appeared to be an organized crime ambush.
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The reports couldn’t immediately be confirmed.
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El Universal reported that a large group of family members were traveling to La Mora, in the municipality of Bavispe, from another part of the municipality when they were ambushed Monday morning.
Mexico’s national civil defense agency confirmed that elements of the National Guard, the army and the state police were conducting a search operation in Bavispe on Monday night in response to the reports. It provided no other information.
The U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Christopher Landau said in a tweet in Spanish that “the safety of our fellow citizens is our top priority. I am closely following the situation in the mountains between Sonora and Chihuahua.”
Landau, who earlier in the day said he was on his way to Sonora “for my first visit to the northeast of Mexico,” did not share details of the incident. The U.S. State Department also said it was aware of the reports but had no further comment.
Claudia Pavlovich Arellano, the governor of Sonora, said on Twitter late Monday that “as a mother,” she was filled with deep pain by “the cowardly acts in the mountains between Sonora and Chihuahua.”
“I don’t know what kind of monsters dare to hurt women and children,” Pavlovich said.