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MEXICO CITY -- The police chief of a small town near Mexico's border with the United States has been arrested over accusations that he was involved in the killings last month of nine women and children of a Mormon family, Mexican authorities said Friday.

Federal authorities arrested Fidel Alejandro Villegas, police chief in the town of Janos in the state of Chihuahua, as part of their investigation into the Nov. 4 attack in a remote region in the neighboring state of Sonora.

Villegas was arrested this week regarding giving protection to organized-crime activity in the region and colluding in the killings, a spokesman for Mexico's Public Security Ministry said.

He is the fourth person to be arrested in the slayings of the three women and six children, members of an off-shoot Mormon community that farms in northern Mexico.

The case has reverberated across the border, with President Donald Trump threatening to designate Mexican organized-crime groups as foreign terrorist organizations.

The women and children, dual citizens of Mexico and the United States, were traveling in SUVs on a remote country road when they were attacked by gunmen believed to belong to a gang. Federal officials have said that they are investigating the possibility that the victims were mistaken for members of a rival group.

Julian LeBaron, a cousin of the victims, said that the arrest of the Janos police chief confirms that Mexican law enforcement officials often collaborate with organized crime. "It's common knowledge down here that the police work with the criminals," he said.

"They have a monopoly on security, and they get paid a wage for protection, and later we find out that they participate in the murder of women and children," he said.

Mexico is about to close its most violent year on record, with 32,600 slayings reported through November.

The violence is proving to be the biggest challenge to President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who has promised that an emphasis on social policies would address the root causes of crime.

A Section on 12/28/2019

Print Headline: Mexican police chief arrested in attack that killed Mormons


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