Vigilante group pulls out of Mexico town

Chilpancingo, Mexico, Mar 27 (EFE).- Hundreds of armed civilians have pulled out of a town in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero after authorities pledged to investigate the death of the vigilante group's leader.

A commander of the group told Efe by phone that at least 2,000 of its members withdrew early Wednesday from Tierra Colorada and handed over security duties to Guerrero state police after reaching an agreement with state Attorney General Martha Elva Garzon Bernal.

"The (community) police have withdrawn and have stopped conducting operations. We'll wait this week to see what results the Attorney General's Office (produces). Otherwise, we'll go back," Ernesto Gallardo said.

The vigilante group in Tierra Colorada, which belongs to the Union of Peoples and Organizations of Guerrero State, or UPOEG, on Tuesday night released 12 police officers and six civilians it had taken hostage in the town after cutting a deal with prosecutors.

The 18 individuals - including the police chief of the municipality of Juan R. Escudero, of which Tierra Colorada is the municipal seat - were handed over to Guerrero AG's office personnel on condition they will be investigated for alleged links to drug traffickers, an UPOEG spokesman told Efe.

Early Tuesday, hundreds of armed members of the self-defense group took control of Tierra Colorada - a town of 20,000 located about 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the Pacific resort of Acapulco - in an effort to find the killers of Guadalupe Quiñonez, a 27-year-old who served as the vigilante group's leader.

UPOEG, whose members are armed and wear hoods, was created in January in the towns of Ayutla de los Libres, Teconoapa and San Marcos to protect residents.

The self-defense group controls access to the communities and polices them to fight crime.