More than 80 vigilantes arrested in Mexico for battling drug cartels

A 'self-defence' movement started to combat the Knights Templar gang

More than 80 suspected vigilantes have been arrested in Mexico for battling drug cartels.

Jose Mireles, a doctor and prolific leader of the “self-defence” movement was among the 83 detained on Friday after street wars in the western state of Michoacan.

Alfredo Castillo, the federal government commissioner, told Milenio TV Mireles was detained on Friday in the port city of Lazaro.

Mireles held an assembly with about 500 people to start a new group in the area and about 150 of the vigilantes had set up roadblocks, he said. 

The vigilantes were allegedly carrying illegal guns and planned to travel to the state capital of Morelia.

Michoacan has been ravaged by the Knights Templar drug cartel, which had controlled much of the state until an uprising by armed vigilantes started in February last year when farmers and ranchers grew tired of their reign of kidnapping, murder and extortion. 

The government first appeared to tacitly accept the vigilante groups but earlier this year authorities formed so-called rural police forces to incorporate the vigilantes and said anyone found carrying illegal weapons would be arrested.

President Enrique Pena Nieto sent soldiers into the state to restore order in January and since then, troops have captured and killed several leaders of the Knights Templar.

More than 85,000 people have died in drug-related killings in Mexico since 2007, when the former President Felipe Calderon sent out the army to battle cartels.

Additional reporting by AP and Reuters

Read more: Mexico's last line of defence
Drug dealers 'made to eat children's hearts' to prove loyalty to Knights Templar leader
Los Reyes: The town that dared to stand up to Mexico’s drug cartels
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