Mexican Vigilantes Continue War on Drug Cartels, Clash With Troops

Wednesday, 15 Jan 2014 09:54 AM

By Michael Mullins

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Mexican vigilantes continue to wage a multi-day war against a drug cartel in the nation's Southwestern region of Tierra Caliente, prompting the government to send troops and federal police into the area earlier this week to quell the violence.

According to witnesses, several unarmed civilians were shot at the scene by police, the Associated Press reported.

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Mexico's attorney general was unable to confirm a number of dead as of Tuesday, while the nation's interior ministry disputed claims that soldiers had fired into an unarmed crowd.

"This is how they plan to protect the community? We don't want them," said Gloria Perez Torres, grieving the death of her brother, Mario, 56, the AP reported.

The violence has flared in recent days, as vigilantes have moved into the towns of Paracuaro and Antunez, attempting to challenge the drug cartel known as the Knights Templar.

Late Monday night in Antunez, townspeople were called to meet a convoy of soldiers who they were told were coming to disarm the vigilantes. Witnesses said the civilian group did not carry guns, but as they blocked the military convoy, some soldiers fired into the crowd.

"They opened fire on civilians. How it that justified?" vigilante Defense group spokesman Estanislao Beltran told MVS radio, the AP noted.

According to Beltran, the vigilantes have no plans to lay down their weapons, considering they lack confidence in federal authorities to protect them from drug cartels.

"We don't have confidence in the government," he said. "We've asked for help for years and have received the same. The government is compromised by organized crime."

Honoring the Mexican Army's request, the vigilantes have agreed to not march on the region's main city. The vigilantes are reportedly focusing their efforts on surrounding the farming hub of Apatzingan, which is considered the command post of the Knights Templar.

There were reports that members of the vigilante group were initially assisted by members of the federal police task force, but these claims were disputed by the Mexican government.

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