APATZINGAN, Mexico, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- Armed vigilantes wrested control of much of the city of Apatzingan, Mexico, from a drug cartel, setting fire to its main municipal building, the mayor said.
The vigilantes, who have an unknown allegiance but are suspected fronts for drug gangs that rival the Knights Templar drug cartel, entered the city Friday, looting and setting fire to convenience stores and attacking the municipal building with homemade bombs, the mayor said.
The incursion was part of an attempt by the vigilante group to take control of the Tierra Caliente region from the Knights Templar cartel, which many local residents hold in high regard, even treating its founder as a sort of modern-day saint, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday.
The vigilantes rose up a few months ago, angered by the cartel's alleged abuse of residents, including extortion, killing and the rape of young women.
Residents in and around Apatzingan set up roadblocks around the city, sometimes using burning cars, the newspaper said.
On Sunday, the vigilantes entered the city of Nueva Italia, where there were reported skirmishes with drug cartel members and supporters.