Mexican army detains 17 members of vigilante group

Morelia, Mexico, Mar 12 (EFE).- Army troops detained 17 members of an armed group that claimed to be a "community police force" in the western state of Michoacan, where a police chief was murdered by drug traffickers in a separate incident, Mexican federal prosecutors said.

Soldiers arrested 16 men and a woman who claimed to be members of the community police force in the city of Buenavista Tomatlan, the federal Attorney General's Office's Michoacan bureau said.

Army troops detained the suspects on the highway that links Buenavista Tomatlan to the city of Tepalcatepec and seized two vehicles, including a municipal police department patrol car reported stolen recently.

Soldiers seized 14 assault rifles and pistols of different calibers from the suspects, prosecutors said.

The suspects were taken to Morelia, the capital of Michoacan, where they were handed over to federal prosecutors.

Soldiers detained 34 men claiming to be members of the community police force in Buenavista Tomatlan last Thursday.

The armed group has links to the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion drug trafficking organization, federal prosecutors said.

The group presumably receives its funding from Sinaloa drug cartel boss Joaquin "El Chapo" (Shorty) Guzman, prosecutors said.

The community police force has been given the job of wiping out the Caballeros Templarios, a gang that controls drug production and trafficking in Michoacan.

A police chief, meanwhile, was murdered in another part of Michoacan, state prosecutors said.

The body of Salvador Gonzalez Magaña, who served as police chief in the city of Tarimbaro, was found around 7:00 p.m. Monday in a ravine in the town of Cuitzillo El Grande.

Gonzalez Magaña was tortured and shot numerous times, state prosecutors said.

The police chief was involved in a shootout recently with criminals engaged in drug smuggling.

Tarimbaro is one of the poorest cities in Michoacan.

The war on drugs launched by former President Felipe Calderon, who was in office from 2006 to 2012, left about 70,000 people dead in Mexico, the government says.

Calderon deployed thousands of soldiers across the country to fight drug cartels, which infiltrated and gained influence over officers in many state and municipal police departments.

Mexican press tallies estimate that about 12,000 people died in violent incidents linked to organized crime groups in 2012.

A total of 914 drug-related murders occurred in Mexico in February, the government said in a report released Friday.

Some 3,157 people have been killed since President Enrique Peña Nieto took office on Dec. 1.