[QODLink]
Americas

Mexican vigilantes attacked by drug cartel

Five dead after civilian "self-defence" groups protest against stranglehold of Knights Templar on northern state.

Last Modified: 29 Oct 2013 03:52
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
About a half dozen petrol stations were attacked in towns in Michoacan state [Reuters]

At least five people were killed and thousands suffered power cuts after clashes and reprisals between Mexican vigilantes and members of a drug cartel known as the Knights Templar.

The weekend confrontations in the state of Michoacan followed a daring march by a self-defence force into the city of Apatzingan, the central stronghold of the pseudo-religious Knights Templar cartel.

State Interior Secretary Jaime Mares said soldiers and federal police had taken over security in Apatzingan following the clashes.

Since rising up in February against extortion by the Knights Templar, residents of a half dozen towns that formed self-defence patrols have lived without access to Apatzingan, a commercial and road hub that is home to the region's main hospital and markets.

Self-defence leaders said they finally grew tired of the cartel blocking services and commerce in an attempt to strangle their uprising and showed up on Friday in Apatzingan's outskirts, armed and ready to "liberate" the city.

They were turned back by soldiers who said they couldn't enter with weapons.

A convoy of hundreds of unarmed self-defence patrol members returned on Saturday and successfully entered the city, where they were met by gunfire, presumably from the Knights Templar.

"They attacked us with grenades and with M60 machineguns, judging by the bullet holes in some of our vehicles," self-defence leader Jose Manuel Mireles said Monday.

Mireles said the Knights Templar was apparently outraged by the invasion of their stronghold, and early on Sunday attacked defensive trenches constructed by the self-defence patrols near Apatzingan's outskirts.

Local police said five men were found dead following that attack, but Mireles said self-defence patrol members saw 12 dead cartel gunmen and lost one of their own.

Power cuts and fire bombs

Cartel members were suspected of attacking electrical stations in 14 towns in apparent retaliation, cutting power to about 400,000 people. About a half dozen petrol stations were also attacked.

The Interior Department said in a Sunday statement that fire bombs and several different types of guns were used, but did not identify the attackers.

"It was the Knights Templar who did it, to pressure the government and intimidate them into disarming the self-defence forces," said Hipolito Mora, leader of self-defence forces in the hamlet of La Ruana.

Although the government has said it won't tolerate vigilantes, it has let the self-defence forces operate in most towns.

The control of the Knights Templar group was once so complete that it would have been unthinkable for any rival to enter Apatzingan.

The Knights Templar often travelled in vehicles marked with its symbol, a red cross, and sponsored demonstrations calling for the federal police to leave the city.

417

Source:
Agencies
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
'Justice for All' demonstrations swell across the US over the deaths of African Americans in police encounters.
Six former Guantanamo detainees are now free in Uruguay with some hailing the decision to grant them asylum.
Disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people in prison highlights inequality and marginalisation, critics say.
Nearly half of Canadians have suffered inappropriate advances on the job - and the political arena is no exception.
Featured
Women's rights activists are demanding change after Hanna Lalango, 16, was gang-raped on a bus and left for dead.
Buried in Sweden's northern forest, Sorsele has welcomed many unaccompanied kids who help stabilise a town exodus.
A look at the changing face of North Korea, three years after the death of 'Dear Leader'.
While some fear a Muslim backlash after café killings, solidarity instead appears to be the order of the day.
Victims spared by the deadly disease are reporting blindness and other unexpected post-Ebola health issues.