A new “self-defence militia” are said to have raided a town in Mexico’s southern region of Chiapas in search of members of a criminal group that had been terrorising the region, according to authorities.
A couple of hundred armed men from “El Machete”, which was announced just days ago, abducted 21 people and burned down at least a dozen buildings, an anonymous official in the Chiapas state prosecutor’s office told the Associated Press.
Authorities said masked men carrying rifles set cars ablaze and vandalised the town hall of Pantelho, about 150 miles north of Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala, on Monday afternoon.
They spread out through the streets searching homes looking for members of a group called “Los Herreras”.
El Machete, an armed group of mostly indigenous Mexicans from Chiapas, announced its formation in July to defend against drug cartels and criminal groups like Los Herreras, according to news site Proceso.
Indigenous priest Marcelo Pérez Pérez, vicar of the social ministry of the diocese of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, told Proceso that armed groups and organised crime have taken over the region, leading to murders and disappearance among political opposition.
"This has caused a lot of violence, a lot of suffering, a lot of terror among the population, and that is already a great concern for the diocese," he said.
“One cannot assess the extent to which organized crime has embedded itself in political parties to come to power, as has happened in Pantelhó and Pueblo Nuevo Solistahuacán, where parties are instruments for organised crime to gain strength,” he added.
The 21 abducted residents of Pantelho were reportedly taken to the nearby town of San José Buena Vista Tercero, about 7.5 miles further north.
In a video released online last week, El Machete outlined its goal to “drive out the hitmen, drug traffickers and organised crime groups”. Thousands gathered to show support for the masked men carrying rifles.
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