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'Worse than ISIS' — Massacre victims' relatives urge Mexico to accept US help to destroy drug cartels
BAVISPE, Mexico (Reuters) - Angry kin of nine American citizens massacred in a suspected gangland ambush in northern Mexico urged the government to accept U.S. help to destroy drug cartels that one grieving relative described as being "as bad or worse than ISIS."
Funerals of the three mothers and six children began to be held in Mexico on Thursday after the government said they were caught in the crossfire of a territorial feud between the Juarez Cartel and its rival the Sinaloa Cartel on Monday.
The victims belonged to three families of dual U.S.-Mexican citizenship born to breakaway Mormon communities founded in the north of Mexico several decades ago, and mourners came from thousands of miles to pay their last respects.
Sadness and anger gripped grieving relatives, and some urged Mexico's leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to accept U.S. President Donald Trump's offer to help crush the gangs.
"I really believe that the cartels in Mexico have moved to another level of barbarity, they are as bad or worse than ISIS. ISIS have an ideology," said Rosa LeBaron, 65, whose cousins, nieces and nephews died in the attacks. "These sicarios (hitmen), why are they doing it? Out of greed and pure evil."
She said Mexico needed to overcome pride, and accept outside help from a neighboring country or international coalition, like the United Nations, to stamp out the cartels.
"This is so beyond comprehension, we're living like we're in Afghanistan, 100 miles from the U.S. border," said LeBaron.
Relatives touch one of the coffins containing the remains of Dawna Ray Langford and her sons Trevor and Rogan, who were killed by unknown assailants, to be buried at the cemetery in La Mora, Sonora, Mexico November 7, 2019. (Reuters/Carlos Jasso)
More than 250,000 Mexicans have been killed in the mounting violence that has gripped the country since 2007, many of them victims of drug related violence.
"They have to wipe these bad men out of Mexico just like the coalition that goes into Syria and these places.
"Julian LeBaron, another relative of the victims and a local activist, said he would welcome outside assistance to find the killers, adding that he didn't think Mexico's government was capable of stopping violence and impunity.
"If the United States or Canada offers to help us, or if extraterrestrials offer to help us, of course we're going to accept it," he told local news outlet Uno TV. "The institutions are corrupt, they're rotten to the core."
President Lopez Obrador said he believed that Mexico could resolve its security problems without foreign "intervention," but he has opened the door to FBI cooperation provided the country's national sovereignty is not violated.
The slaughter of the women and children in their cars on an isolated dirt road in the border state of Sonora sparked revulsion and outrage in the United States just as Trump is gearing up for his re-election campaign in 2020.
One Republican Senator, Josh Hawley from Missouri, reacted on Twitter by saying that the United States should impose sanctions on Mexican officials "who won't confront cartels."
Republican Senator Tom Cotton from Arkansas told Fox News earlier this week "the only thing that can counteract bullets is more and bigger bullets," suggesting the United States may need to intervene.
The killings follow a series of mass shootings that have piled pressure on Lopez Obrador to make good on his 2018 election campaign pledge to end years of violence.
However, he has resisted taking a tougher line with the gangs, instead pursuing a strategy of non-confrontation he calls "hugs not bullets" and arguing he can end violence by addressing the root causes of crime such as poverty and joblessness.
Adrian LeBaron, whose daughter and grandchildren died in the attack, reflected the views of several other relatives who said they had little faith in Mexico's judicial system and federal government, but still hopes the country will rise to the challenge.
"I love Mexico, and this happened in Mexico, and these children are Mexican," he said. "The FBI, the whole world, must be dying to do something, but it wouldn't be right... we should be able to do it."
BANGKOK (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Mark Esper expressed confidence on Sunday in the U.S. military justice system's ability to hold troops to account, two days after President Donald Trump pardoned two Army officers accused of war crimes in Afghanistan.
Trump also restored the rank of a Navy SEAL platoon commander who was demoted for actions in Iraq.
Asked how he would reassure countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq in the wake of the pardons, Esper said: "We have a very effective military justice system."
"I have great faith in the military justice system," Esper told reporters during a trip to Bangkok, in his first remarks about the issue since Trump issued the pardons.
On a military base, a black flag is bad news. That means it's too hot outside to do anything strenuous, so training and missions are put off until conditions improve.
As the climate changes, there could be plenty more black flag days ahead, especially in Florida, a new analysis from the Union of Concerned Scientists found. America's military bases could see an average of an extra month of dangerously hot days by mid-century. In Florida, they could quadruple.
Pentagon data shows heat-related illnesses and injuries are on the rise in every branch of the military. Last year, nearly 2,800 troops suffered heatstroke or heat exhaustion, a roughly 50 percent jump from 2014.
"I think most of us, if we hear there are tens of thousands of cases of heat stress in our troops every year, our minds would go to where they were deployed," said Kristy Dahl, a senior climate scientist at UCS and the lead author of the study. "But more than 90% of the military cases of heatstroke happened right here at home."
BANGKOK (Reuters) - The United States and South Korea said on Sunday they will postpone upcoming military drills in an effort to bolster a stalled peace push with North Korea, even as Washington denied the move amounted to another concession to Pyongyang.
The drills, known as the Combined Flying Training Event, would have simulated air combat scenarios and involved an undisclosed number of warplanes from both the United States and South Korea.
An opening ceremony will be held Monday on Hawaii island for a military exercise with China that will involve about 100 People's Liberation Army soldiers training alongside U.S. Army counterparts.
This comes after Adm. Phil Davidson, head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, spoke on Veterans Day at Punchbowl cemetery about the "rules-based international order" that followed U.S. victory in the Pacific in World War II, and China's attempts to usurp it.
Those American standards "are even more important today," Davidson said, "as malicious actors like the Communist Party of China seek to redefine the international order through corruption, malign cyber activities, intellectual property theft, restriction of individual liberties, military coercion and the direct attempts to override other nations' sovereignty."
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday told North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to "act quickly" to reach a deal with the United States, in a tweet weighing in on North Korea's criticism of his political rival former Vice President Joe Biden.
Trump, who has met Kim three times since 2018 over ending the North's missile and nuclear programs, addressed Kim directly, referring to the one-party state's ruler as "Mr. Chairman".
In his tweet, Trump told Kim, "You should act quickly, get the deal done," and hinted at a further meeting, signing off "See you soon!"