Mexican Vigilantes Take Over Town, Strike Against Cartels

Mexican vigilantes have taken control of a town as part of their campaign to rid the region of a violent cartel known as Knights Templar. Officials say an armed vigilante group moved into the town of Tancitaro in the western state of Michoacan. A confrontation between gang members and vigilantes resulted in two deaths and three people being injured.

According to CBS News, officials say Mexican vigilantes had taken up posts in Tancitaro’s town hall and main square. Some were seen wearing ski masks or bandanas with firearms in hand, patrolling the town. Authorities say the armed vigilantes formed from citizens from two nearby towns and converged on Tancitaro. Some were seen with AKs in hand, while others brandished machetes — whatever weapon they could get their hands on, they used.

Police and soldiers were sent to the Michoacan town after armed citizens and cartel members clashed outside Tancitaro. They are still working to determine whether the two killed were vigilantes or gang members. Police officials have also suggested that some of the vigilantes are funded by a rival cartel, but the groups reject these claims.

As LA Times reports, Michoacan is dominated by a cult-like cartel known as Knights Templar. They rule the region through threats and violence, murdering people who speak against them. The strange group is well-known for its stranglehold on the rural region, their influence present in almost every aspect of day-to-day life. The Knights Templar evolved from a methamphetamine dealing cartel previously known as La Familia.

Beginning earlier this year, Mexican vigilante groups began forming, calling themselves “self-defense” squads. They talk about taking on the Knights Templar and “liberating” their territories. Over the past months the armed groups have successfully pushed cartel members out of five towns and many smaller villages. However, the vigilantes realize they must stay in the “liberated” towns to patrol them. “We know that if we leave, they will come back and massacre everyone,” says one vigilante fighter.

After the recent clash between the Mexican vigilantes and Knights Templar gangsters, police and infantry have moved in to temporarily control several small towns. As LA Times reports, some are seeing the “self-defense” movement as a test of Mexican President Nieto’s resolve to end the lawless in Michoacan.

Most citizens in liberated towns support the civilian fighters. Some, though, realize that they will be the first to pay if the Knights Templar return. However, they keep hope that they can escape the overbearing drug cartel. Right now, they are forced to stay close to their towns under the Mexican vigilantes’ protection, for fear of cartel members hovering around the outskirts.

[Image via DrugWar101]