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Here’s what we know about the killings of 9 Americans in Mexico

This photo shows a view of the car where part of the nine murdered members of the LeBaron family were killed during an ambush in Bavispe, Sonora mountains, Mexico, on November 5, 2019. - US President Donald Trump offered on November 5 to help Mexico "wage war" on its cartels after three women and six children from an American Mormon community were murdered in an area notorious for drug traffickers. (AFP Photo via Getty Images/Herika Martinez)

PHOENIX – The deadly ambush of nine U.S. citizens, including six children, in rural northern Mexico this week has left a family devastated and leaders on both sides of the border pointing to drug cartels.

Here’s what we know:

What happened

Three SUVs filled with women and their 14 children were driving on a dirt road Monday between the states of Chihuahua and Sonora, about 100 miles south of the U.S. border.

The family lives in La Mora, a Bavispe, Mexico community that is an offshoot of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

They were heading to a wedding in Chihuahua, but one of the women, Rhonita Miller, was driving to Phoenix to pick up her husband at the airport.

Her vehicle was hit in a hail of bullets that caused the gas tank to explode. A relative posted video of the charred vehicle.

Gen. Hector Mendoza, Mexico’s army chief of staff, said Wednesday that the attackers let some surviving children go, indicating that “it was not a targeted attack.”

Mendoza said the ambush consisted of two attacks, two hours apart at two places along the road. He said at 9 a.m. a Chevy Tahoe was hit by bullets and exploded in flames, and at 11 a.m., two Suburbans — one carrying the mother and her baby — were hit by gunfire.

Officials in Mexico thought a gang had mistaken the cars for those belonging to rivals, but the Wall Street Journal reported the family had quarreled with gangs as recently as 2009.

That year, Benjamin LeBaron and his brother-in-law Luis Widmar were killed by a drug cartel. LeBaron led an anticrime advocacy group, SOS Chihuahua.

Family members said the gangs had not been a problem for them in a while.

Who was killed

  • Rhonita Miller, 30, and her children Howard Jr., 12; Krystal, 10; Titus and Tiana, 8 months.
  • Dawna Ray Langford, 43, and her children Trevor, 11; Rogan, 2.
  • Christina Langford Johnson, 29.

Who survived

  • Langford’s children: Kylie, 14, was shot in the foot; Devin, 13, was uninjured; McKenzie, 9, was shot in the arm; Cody, 8, was shot in the leg and jaw; Jake, 6, was not hurt; Xander, 4, suffered a gunshot wound to his back; Brixon, 9 months, was shot in the chest.
  • Devin hid his siblings in the bushes, covering them with branches, before making the nearly 15-mile walk back home to get help.
  • He was gone for so long Kylie sent McKenzie to find help. The injured 9-year-old got lost and wandered for hours before being found and had initially been listed as missing.
  • Johnson’s daughter: Faith, 7 months, was unharmed. Her mother had hidden her on the floorboards of the back seat.
  • A Valley relative of the extended family said the children were in stable condition at a Tucson hospital. Aaron Staddon, of Queen Creek, said Cody, who was shot in the jaw, will need extensive plastic surgery. Staddon said the family expected the children to be moved to a Phoenix facility soon.

Unrelated arrest

An unidentified person was taken into custody late Tuesday in Agua Prieta, Mexico, less than 3 miles from Douglas, Arizona.

Two people tied and gagged were in the vehicle the suspect was driving.

Authorities said they confiscated assault rifles, high-caliber ammunition and spent magazines but by Wednesday said the suspect apparently wasn’t connected to the ambush.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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