Hundreds of mourners gathered on Friday (November 8) for the burial of a mother, her months-old twins and two other children on the fringes of a township founded by breakaway Mormons in Mexico, in a second funeral for the victims of a brazen armed ambush.
Suspected cartel gunmen attacked Rhonita Miller LeBaron, 30, and four of her children on Monday, also striking two other vehicles, killing a total of three women and six children on an isolated dirt road in the hills of Sonora. All of the victims were dual U.S.-Mexican citizens.
Miller’s SUV exploded in flames during the attack, incinerating her along with her 13-year-old son, 11-year old daughter and 7-month-old twins, Titus and Tiana.
On Thursday in La Mora, the first funeral was held for victims of the attack, with mourners guarded by heavily armed soldiers.
More than 250,000 Mexicans have been killed in the mounting violence that has gripped the country since 2007, many of them victims of drug-related crimes. Tens of thousands more are missing.
Both the families and the governments blame warring drug cartels, although they disagree whether the families were targeted or victims of mistaken identity in the attack.
The victims were all part of a community of breakaway Mormon sects who arrived in Mexico from the 1880s onwards to escape a clampdown on polygamy in the United States.
A shrinking number still practice polygamy, but families are large. Rhonita Miller is survived by her husband and three other children. The mourners arrived in a convoy of dozens of trucks in Colonia LeBaron on Friday after a five-hour drive across backroads from La Mora, where the victims all lived.
The ambush took place on a track near La Mora.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he believed Mexico could resolve its security problems without foreign “intervention,” but he has opened the door to FBI cooperation provided the country’s national sovereignty is not violated.
The killings follow a series of mass shootings that have piled pressure on Lopez Obrador to make good on his 2018 election campaign pledge to end violence.
However, he has resisted taking a tougher line with the gangs, instead pursuing a strategy of non-confrontation he calls “hugs not bullets” and arguing he can end violence by addressing the root causes of crime such as poverty and joblessness.
(Production: Josue Gonzalez, Roberto Ramirez, Rodolfo Pena Roja, Geraldine Downer)