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Mexico arrests high-profile vigilante leader, 70 gang members

28 June 2014, 10:12

Mexico City - Mexican forces on Friday arrested Jose Manuel Mireles, a senior leader of the powerful anti-crime vigilante group in the western state of Michoacan.

Mireles was detained in the Pacific coastal town of Lazar Cardenas after entering a town with more than 100 armed supporters.

Mireles, who sported a thick moustache and wore a cowboy hat, was a co-founder of Michoacan's vigilante or "self-defense" movement.

Mireles was arrested with "weapons of exclusive military use," the Michoacan state government said via Twitter.

Along with Mireles more than 100 armed men who claimed to be self-defense force members were also arrested, an army source told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Mireles entered the town of La Mira on Thursday with some 600 followers armed with automatic rifles. He claimed that the locals had called him for protection against criminal gangs.

Vigilantes in Michoacan, mostly farmers and other civilians, took up arms in February 2013 claiming that the local police was too incompetent or corrupt to protect them from local criminal gangs, especially the cult-like Knights Templar drug cartel.

The government was slow to react, but finally in May 2014 they agreed to give the vigilantes uniforms and weapons and legalize their movement, but vowed to arrest any armed group that failed to register with the authorities.

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