At least nine American women and children were gunned down in a fiery ambush in the Mexican desert, leaving a 13-year-old survivor to walk for hours to get help after hiding his brothers and sisters with tree branches, authorities said Tuesday.
The brutal attack occurred on a highway in the border state of Sonora, where three carloads of Mormon relatives were fired on, and at least one vehicle burst into flames, officials said.
The dead included two 8-month-old twins and a toddler, relatives said. Six children survived.
After witnessing his mother and brothers being killed, 13-year-old Devin Langford hid his remaining siblings in the bushes and covered them with tree branches. The boy walked 14 miles to his home in La Mora to get help. His 9-year-old sister, Mckenzie, who was shot in the arm, took off after her brother and was later found lost and wandering in the desert by search parties, according to a relative's Facebook post.
Family members blamed the attack on drug cartels that rule the area, and Mexican officials said the carnage may have been the result of mistaken identity.
President Trump tweeted a condemnation of the attack and said "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."
The victims were all members of a Mormon community that has lived in the area for decades, relatives said. The convoy consisted of three mothers in three vehicles, with 14 children between them, said relative Jhon LeBaron in a Facebook post.
A weeping relative took video of the burned wreckage and posted it online.
"They were ambushed by the Mexican cartels; shot, burned and murdered in cold blood. These were innocent civilians, American citizens simply trying to live peaceful lives," LeBaron wrote.
He described a long siege of fear following the killings as male relatives armed themselves after hearing Devin's news. Bullets continued to fly in the area, he said, as the men hunted for the children hiding in the desert. In the bullet-riddled hulk of one SUV, the men found a a 7-month-old baby girl,still alive and strapped in her car seat, on the floor, where her mother had apparently tried to hide her, LeBaron said.
None of the mothers survived. The dead were identified by relatives as Rhonita Miller, 30, Howard Miller, 12, Krystal Miller, 10, Titus and Tiana Miller, both 8 months, Christina Johnson, 29, Dawna Langford, 43, Trevor Langford, 11, Rogan Langford, 2.
The survivors, according to LeBaron's posts, are Kylie Langford, 14, who was shot in the foot, Devin Langford, who was not injured, McKenzie Langford, 9, who was grazed by a bullet in her arm, Cody Langford, 8, who was shot in the face and the leg and is currently hospitalized, Jake Langford, 6, who was not injured, Xander Langford, who was shot in the back and Brixon Langford, 8 months old, who was shot in the chest.
The conditions of Brixon and Xander were not included in LeBaron's post.
All of the dead and wounded had dual U.S. and Mexican citizenship, family members said.
State and federal authorities are investigating the incident, authorities said. The FBI is also involved.
Cartel violence has a long and ugly history in Mexico. Just last month, authorities were forced to release the captured son of former Sinaloa Cartel kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, after being attacked by armed cartel members who surrounded the officers and opened fire.