Mexican authorities arrested Jose Manuel Mireles, one of the most senior leader of vigilante groups that have been battling drug gangs in the western state of Michoacan, officials said.
A co-founder of Michoacan’s vigilante or “self-defence” movement tasked with battling drug gangs, Mireles was arrested on Friday with illegal guns, said Alfred Castillo, the federal government commissioner of Michoacan state, to local media.
Along with Mireles, more than 100 armed men who claimed to be self-defence force members were also arrested in the port city of Lazaro Cardenas, an army source told the AFP news agency, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Mireles entered the town of La Mira on Thursday with some 600 followers armed with automatic rifles. He claimed that the locals had called him for protection against criminal gangs.
Vigilantes in Michoacan, mostly farmers and other civilians, took up arms in February 2013 claiming that the local police was too incompetent or corrupt to protect them from local criminal gangs, especially the Knights Templar drug cartel.
The government was slow to react, but finally in May 2014 they agreed to give the vigilantes uniforms and weapons and legalise their movement. However, they vowed to arrest any armed group that failed to register with the authorities.