Vigilantes clash with drug cartel in Mexico's Michoacan
Monday, January 13, 2014 - 01:09
Jan. 13 - Mexican vigilante group occupies small town in Michoacan state in Mexico, amid clashes with alleged members of Knights Templar drug cartel. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
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ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION)
STORY: A group of masked vigilantes seized the small town of Nueva Italia in the western Mexican state of Michoacan after clashing with alleged members of a drug cartel.
About 100 men, many armed with high-powered rifles, barreled into the town on Sunday in a convoy of pickup trucks to declare the area liberated from the feared Knights Templar cartel that controls much of Michoacan.
Television images show the vigilantes taking cover behind food stalls, vehicles and park benches, from exchanges of fire with alleged members of the drug cartel as a helicopter circled overhead.
The video also shows an injured vigilante being helped by his colleagues.
The vigilante group, or self-defense group, also were reported to have disarmed local policemen and taken over the town's police station.
Masked groups of vigilantes took control in more than a dozen rural communities in 2013, claiming the government was failing to stop gang extortion and violence.
Now, since late December, these armed groups have taken over a series of towns in Michoacan and have closed in on Apatzingan, the stronghold of the Knights Templar cartel, raising the risk of an unprecedented battle amid Mexico's drug war.
Violence spiked in Michoacan in recent years and masked groups of vigilantes took power in some rural communities in 2013, claiming the government was failing to stop gang extortion and violence.
Michoacan's murder rate has nearly doubled since 2006 as traffickers increasingly turned from marijuana plantations to producing methamphetamine in crude labs hidden amid the state's mountains and avocado groves.
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