Mexican authorities have arrested a vigilante leader in the state of Michoacan, accusing him of ordering the death of a rival mayor who opposed vigilante groups.
Security officials for the western state said on Monday that Enrique Hernandez Salcedo, from Yurecuaro, had been arrested over the March 22 killing of Gustavo Garibay, the mayor of nearby Tanhuato.
Authorities believe Garibay was shot dead due to his opposition to the presence of vigilantes – armed self-defence groups established to fight the Knights Templar drug cartel .
Three of the gunmen told investigators that they committed the crime under “the instructions of their leader Enrique Hernandez Salcedo”, according to Alfredo Castillo, Michaocan’s federal security commissioner .
More than 50 vigilantes have now been arrested in the state for committing various crimes.
Authorities also arrested one of the most high-profile vigilante leaders, Hipolito Mora , earlier in March on charges of planning the double murder of two fellow militiamen.
Mora organised one of Michoacan’s first vigilante forces in his hometown of La Ruana in February 2013 to combat the Knights Templar cartel, which had been terrorising communities.
The self-defence militias grew and eventually took control of security in about 20 towns and joined forces with federal authorities earlier this year.
|Vigilante leader, Hipolito Moro, accused of murder|
The vigilantes say they have 20,000 people in their ranks.
And Enrique Pena Nieto , Mexico’s president, has deployed nearly 10,000 troops and federal police to take control of security in the agricultural state.
The government legalised vigilante groups in January by offering to fold them into a “rural defence corps” under the army.
Hernandez, whose group is based in the town of Yurecuaro, reserved his right to make a statement.
Castillo denies the charges against him, and says there is not enough evidence to prove his involvement.