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Vigilante group releases police, civilians it took hostage in Mexican city


Tierra Colorada, Mexico, Mar 27 (EFE).- A vigilante group has released the 12 police officers and six civilians it took hostage in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero after cutting a deal with prosecutors, spokesmen for the grassroots organization said.

The 18 individuals were handed over to Guerrero Attorney General's Office personnel Tuesday night on condition that they will be investigated for allegedly having links to drug traffickers, a Union of Peoples and Organizations of Guerrero State, or UPOEG, spokesman told Efe.

The vigilante group in Tierra Colorada, a city of 20,000 located about 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) from the Pacific resort of Acapulco, belongs to UPOEG.

Police chief Oscar Ulises Valle and the other suspects arrived at the AG's office in Chilpancingo, the capital of Guerrero, around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday and gave prosecutors statements.

The 18 suspects were later taken to jail, where they will be held until prosecutors decide whether charges will be filed against them.

Hundreds of armed members of the self-defense group took control early Tuesday of Tierra Colorada 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 cities 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.

Vigilante groups have existed for some time in Guerrero, with several organizations joining the 17-year-old Community Police in trying to catch suspected criminals.

Residents tried to form self-defense groups in Santos Reyes Nopala, a city in Oaxaca state, and in Tabasco state recently.

Federal officials said last month that they would try to engage Mexico's community policing groups in a dialogue to try to halt the spread of vigilante groups.

"This process demands, of course, a political role, dialogue and the federal government will be willing to participate at all times to assist and support the state and municipal governments," Deputy Communications Secretary Eduardo Sanchez said.