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A suspect reportedly has been arrested in connection with the brutal Monday slaying of nine U.S. citizens in the Mexican province of Sonora.
According to The Associated Press, the state’s Agency for Criminal Investigation revealed Tuesday that an unnamed suspect had been taken into custody in the border town of Agua Prieta — directly south of Douglas, Arizona.
The suspect was allegedly found with two hostages, who were left bound and gagged inside a vehicle.
Four assault rifles, corresponding ammunition and a series of other vehicles — including an armored SUV — reportedly were also found where the suspect had been holed up.
A suspect has been arrested and is under investigation for possible connections with the deaths of 9 U.S. citizens when cartel gunmen ambushed their vehicles, authorities say. https://t.co/A42G8o9awH
— The Associated Press (@AP) November 6, 2019
Mexican authorities have yet to release any further detail or descriptors relating to the suspect.
The official investigation began Monday when three vehicles — one destroyed by fire — were found on an eight-mile stretch of Mexican highway, along with the bodies of three adult women and six children — the product of a brutal ambush by cartel gunmen.
All nine victims, the youngest being two twins less than 1 year old, were members of the LeBarón family — a large family of devout Mormons with dual U.S.-Mexican citizenship.
Many members of the LeBarón family reside in a prominent religious community that sprang up approximately 70 miles south of the U.S.-Mexico border in the 1940s, according to Fox News.
— Reuters (@Reuters) November 5, 2019
Surviving relatives say the three women killed Monday had been returning to the states with their children to pick up the husband of Rhonita LeBarón in Phoenix so that the two might celebrate their wedding anniversary.
Shortly after Rhonita LeBarón’s vehicle broke down, however, the family’s cars were ambushed by multiple gunmen who shot at the women and children and eventually set Rhonita’s vehicle ablaze, burning the youngest children alive in their car seats.
Seven children survived the cartel ambush, hiding in the brush beside the road while the oldest hiked 14 miles to secure help from local authorities, the AP reported.
The slaughter of the LeBaróns is indicative of a record surge in crime throughout the nation of Mexico this year, Reuters reported, with 14,603 murders taking place by the close of June 2019.
President Donald Trump addressed that violent crime wave Tuesday as news of the roadside massacre began to circulate, calling on Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to “wage WAR on the drug cartels.”
“This is the time for Mexico, with the help of the United States, to wage WAR on the drug cartels and wipe them off the face of the earth,” Trump wrote in a tweet. “We merely await a call from your great new president!”
López Obrador has, however, declined Trump’s offer to support a militaristic assault on the cartels, The Hill reported, saying Tuesday, “It’s not in agreement with our convictions. The worst thing is war.”
According to the AP, the Mexican investigation into the murder of the LeBaróns is ongoing and the suspect arrested Tuesday remains in custody for further questioning.