ASSOCIATED PRESS — In one of the stranger chapters of Mexico’s drug war, townsfolk have kidnapped the mother of an alleged drug gang boss to demand the release of their loved ones.
The government of the southern state of Guerrero said Tuesday it dispatched 220 soldiers and police in hopes of defusing the situation in the town of Totolapan.
Totolapan has been essentially controlled for years by a drug gang boss known as “El Tequilero.”
His gang in recent months has been fighting turf battles with other cartels.
The gang members known as “tequileros” kidnapped about a dozen Totolapan inhabitants who they apparently suspect of supporting rivals.
A group of armed townspeople on Monday posted a video saying they had his mother and would exchange her for their loved ones.
Many parts of Guerrero are controlled by vigilante-style community police forces, some believed to have ties to leftist guerrilla movements. Drug traffickers sometimes form their own pseudo-vigilante groups, and the state is torn by ancestral land conflicts, illegal logging and mining interests that create a powder keg for potential conflict.
“El Tequilero” was believed to be wounded in violence last month, and is now thought to be hiding out with his kidnap victims in the mountains.
The state attorney general headed up a massive manhunt using helicopters and ground troops to look for him. But Astudillo warned that the vigilantes would have to withdraw to allow police and soldiers to do their jobs.
The state of Guerrero has been home to some of the more notorious incidents in Mexico’s now 10-year-old war on drugs.
Last month, officials sent soldiers and police sweeping through the state in an effort to quell a wave of violence that included the discovery of hidden graves holding dozens of bodies and a camp where gunmen stored the severed heads of nine rivals in a cooler.
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