A flat tire may have been what put a group of US citizens in the line of fire during a gun battle between rival drug cartels in Northern Mexico this week, a Utah-based relative said.
Three women, 8-month-old twins and four other children died in the Monday massacre in the border state of Sonora, near where they worship with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Three cars — each driven by a mother, with their children as the passengers — were apparently attacked on a dirt road, a family member of some of the victims told FOX 13 in Salt Lake City.
At some point, one of the vehicles got a flat tire, said the relative, who did not want to give her name for fear of retaliation.
“They came back home [and] swapped vehicles,” the woman said. “When the brother-in-law went to pick up the broken-down vehicle — he was changing the tire — he saw smoke coming just from right over the hill.”
The flat tire, the relative said, likely put the women and children in the line of fire as a battle waged between warring cartels.
“It was a war between the Chihuahua cartel and the Sonora cartel and these women just happened to be caught in the middle,” the family member told the station.
Several children were able to escape the carnage with gunshot wounds — and family reported late Monday they were found and brought to safety, the outlet reported.
One child remains missing, according to the late Monday report.
“To ask for help from the Mexican government is like asking for help from the mafia to fight the mafia,” the relative told the station. “We need help from the American government. We need help from our people. We are U.S. citizens. Every one of them [has] U.S. citizenship.”
The victims of the slaughter belonged to a breakaway Mormon community that separated from the mainstream Mormon church after it outlawed polygamous marriages.
The LeBaron family, which settled in the hills and plains of northern Mexico decades ago, has been the target of gang violence in Mexico for at least a decade.
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