At least 43 people have been killed during clashes between armed civilians and security forces in western Mexico, a region torn by drug cartel violence, two government officials said.

The violence took place on Friday morning in the municipality of Tanhuato, in the state of Michoacan, and the death toll was a "preliminary figure," an official said on condition of anonymity.

Officials said 42 civilians had been killed in the clash in an area where powerful drug gangs have been active for years. One of the officials said one policeman had been killed, while the other said three had died.

Officials also said that the convoy of federal police and soldiers was ambushed.

The area between Michoacan and Jalisco is known as a stronghold of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, which has mounted several large-scale attacks on federal and state forces in recent weeks.

Tanhuato is near Yurecuaro, a town where a former vigilante leader who was running for mayor was shot dead during a campaign event last week.

Farmers formed vigilante forces in Michoacan in 2013 to drive out the Knights Templar drug cartel, which has been weakened by arrests of its top leaders.

Tanhuato is also near the border with Jalisco state, where the powerful Jalisco New Generation drug cartel has battled security forces in deadly clashes this year.

Source: Agencies