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Vigilantes take control of 2 more towns in western Mexico

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Morelia, Mexico, Jan 12 (EFE).- Community self-defense groups have occupied two more towns in the western Mexican state of Michoacan, where shootouts, roadblocks and the torchings of vehicles have been taking place for the past week, officials said.

Vigilantes entered El Ceñidor, a town outside the city of Paracuaro, and occupied it on Saturday, a Federal Police spokesman said.

Paracuaro is one of the more than one dozen cities and towns where self-defense groups have been formed to fight the Caballeros Templarios drug cartel.

Vigilantes also took control of Zapotan, a coastal community outside the city Coahuayana.

Twelve trucks, buses and automobiles were burned in the wave of violence that hit Paracuaro and the city of Apatzingan earlier this weekend, the Michoacan Attorney General's Office said.

Several businesses were torched by gunmen opposed to the community self-defense groups, the AG's office said.

The plan is to also occupy the cities of Uruapan, Los Reyes and Apatzingan, community self-defense group leader Hipolito Mora told Efe.

Apatzingan is the main bastion of Los Caballeros Templarios.

Los Caballeros Templarios, which was founded in December 2010 by former members of the La Familia Michoacana cartel, deals in both synthetic drugs and natural drugs.

The gang commits murders, stages kidnappings and runs extortion rackets that target business owners and transport companies, affecting everyday life.

The cartel uses Michoacan's 270 kilometers (168 miles) of coastline to smuggle chemical drug precursors for the production of synthetic drugs into Mexico.

The community self-defense groups emerged in Michoacan in February 2013 to fight the cartel.

Community self-defense groups and community police forces have been formed in 15 of Michoacan's 113 cities.

Self-defense groups have been formed in the cities of Buenavista Tomatlan, Coalcoman, Aguililla, Tepalcatepec, Los Reyes, Chinicuila, Aquila, Paracho, Cheran, La Huacana, Tancitaro, Churumuco, Paracuaro and Coahuayana, as well as in a community outside Apatzingan, to fight drug traffickers.

The Federal Police, marine corps and army launched a series of operations last week along the coast and in the Tierra Caliente region of Michoacan to fight drug-related violence.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/agencia-efe/140112/vigilantes-take-control-2-more-towns-western-mexico