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Anti-drug cartel vigilantes told to disarm

NUEVA ITALIA—Mexico’s government urged vigilantes on Monday to quit their growing armed struggle against a drug cartel and go home, saying federal forces will handle security in their embattled western towns.

Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong made his plea after “self-defense” forces seized another town in the troubled western state of Michoacan, gaining ground in their struggle against the Knights Templar gang.

But a vigilante leader, Estanislao Beltran, told AFP that the civilian militiamen were not ready to drop their weapons in their year-long battle in a lime and avocado growing region known as Tierra Caliente, or Hot Country.

“We can’t abandon our weapons because the moment that we do, organized crime will come after us and our families,” Beltran said from Nueva Italia, the latest town to be seized on Sunday.

Admitting that Michoacan faced a security “crisis,” Osorio Chong signed a new security pact with Governor Fausto Vallejo for federal forces to take over the responsibilities of state and local police.

“The self-defense groups are asked to return to their places of origin and resume their normal activities,” Osorio Chong said after the emergency security talks in the state capital, Morelia.

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