JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) — Mexican officials on Thursday confirmed the arrests of suspects in the Nov. 4 murder of nine U.S. citizens in a rural highway in Sonora, Mexico.
Mexican authorities have blamed the killings of three women and six children who were part of the LeBaron family clan in Chihuahua state on members of La Linea criminal organization, who mistook their vehicles with those of rival drug traffickers.
One of the suspects was arrested last month and additional suspects were taken into custody Sunday after a judge in Mexico City issued search and arrest warrants, the Office of the Mexican Attorney General (FGR) said
On Thursday, FGR officials in Juarez said they were not authorized to give additional information on the arrests. However, relatives identified two of the suspects and accused the Mexican government of trying to fabricate culprits.
“We know, we are sure, they had nothing to do with this,” said Patricia Hernandez, sister of two of the detainees.
She and other family members said Luis Mario Hernandez, 43, and Hector Manuel Hernandez, 35, were detained in Janos, Chihuahua, a town 70 miles southwest of Columbus, New Mexico, on charges of possession of drugs and ammunition.
The relatives on Wednesday and Thursday met with law-enforcement officials in Juarez and said they’re in contact with the Public Defender’s Office in Mexico City, where their relatives are being held.
The suspects’ relatives said neither of the brothers has a criminal record or is a member of La Linea.
According to Mexican authorities, La Linea — a remnant of the old Juarez Cartel — and a Sinaloa Cartel proxy known as Los Salazar are fighting for control of smuggling routes into the United States at the Sonora-Chihuahua Border.
The FBI is cooperating with the federal government on the investigation. Border Report contacted the FBI’s Phoenix office for comment but was referred to headquarters in Washington, D.C. Headquarters did not immediately respond to an email sent after business hours.
The killings of the nine American citizens has prompted threats from President Trump to designate Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations. Attorney General William Barr planned to be in Mexico City on Thursday for meetings with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador as well as the foreign minister, attorney general and others in law enforcement, according to a Justice Department official.
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