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One of the three vehicles caught in the ambush. One of the three vehicles caught in the ambush.

Suspects arrested in LeBarón massacre; FBI agents join investigation

Many members of the LeBarón family have left Mexico for the US

Suspects have been arrested in connection with the massacre of nine members of the LeBarón family in Sonora last week, Security Secretary Alfonso Durazo said on Monday, but declined to reveal the name of the criminal organization to which the alleged perpetrators belong.

Federal authorities said last week that they believed that La Línea, a gang with links to the Juárez Cartel, may have mistaken the vehicles in which the murdered women and children were traveling as those of a splinter cell of the Sinaloa Cartel known as Los Salazar. Family members rejected the hypothesis.

Durazo told reporters today that the case is being handled by the federal Attorney General’s Office (FGR) and its counterpart in Sonora and that it wasn’t his place to provide additional information about the people who have been arrested.

He also said the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is in Mexico and working with Mexican investigators. The three women and six children killed were all United States citizens.

Speaking at the presidential press conference, Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said that Mexico had invited the FBI to participate in the investigation.

“. . . The FGR is interested in the participation of the FBI because there are resources and weapons [involved] whose origin is the United States . . .” he said.

As United States citizens were killed in the attack, there is no reason not to allow the FBI to take part, Ebrard said, adding that Mexico has sought similar involvement in cases in the U.S. involving Mexican citizens, such as the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, in August.

The foreign secretary stressed that the FBI would not replace the FGR at the head of the investigation and explained that the don’t have permission to be armed or to carry out inquiries without informing Mexican authorities.

Ebrard also said the government would stipulate how many FBI agents can come to Mexico to support the investigation and how long they can stay.

Alex LeBarón, a former federal lawmaker, said the participation of the United States in the investigation was necessary because Mexico is going through “a serious rule of law crisis.”

Members of the LeBarón family, part of a breakaway fundamentalist Mormon community that has lived in northern Mexico for more than a century, said last week that they would not be intimated into leaving the country.

But about 100 people from La Mora, the small Mormon community where most of the victims of the barbarous attack lived, and Colonia LeBarón in Chihuahua decided to leave and traveled to the United States in a convoy of 18 vehicles on Saturday.

“They want to be in the United States to feel safe,” said Julian LeBarón, a community leader and relative of the murder victims.

Some of the families were headed to Tucson and others to Phoenix, the Associated Press reported.

Bryce Langford, whose mother Dawna was killed in the attack, told The Arizona Daily Star that members of the communities had been considering moving even before last Monday’s ambush due to increasing violence in the area.

“The assets that they’ve acquired down there are tremendous,” he said. “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.”

The exodus of the families came just hours after the funeral of Christina Langford, the last of the nine victims to be laid to rest. According to children who survived the attack, she got out of her vehicle and raised her hands to alert the attackers that they were firing at women and children. She was shot and killed anyway.

Members of the National Guard have been deployed to both La Mora and Colonia LeBarón, where the remaining members of the community are determined to fight for justice.

“When we face a tragic event like this, we don’t run,” Lienzo Widmar, a cousin of one of the murdered women, told CBS news.  “We seek answers. We try to solve it.”

Source: Milenio (sp), Infobae (sp), CBS News (en), The Associated Press (en) 

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