Mexican vigilante group kidnaps 21 people, burns houses in city raid, officials say


Hundreds of gunmen from a newly formed vigilante group called “El Machete” kidnapped 21 people while torching vehicles and at least a dozen homes in a town in southern Mexico, officials said.

The chaos in Pantelho unfolded on Monday as the group – which announced its existence a week earlier, pledging to fight the drug cartel’s incursion into the largely indigenous mountain communities of Chiapas – went street by street in search of suspected criminals, Associated Press Reports.

Pedro Gómez, a local activist, told the AP that at least three vehicles and a dozen houses were set on fire. The town hall was also vandalized.

Vigilants of "El machete" As they call themselves, an armed group composed mainly of indigenous people to defend themselves against drug cartels, is seen at a meeting with indigenous communities in Pantelho, Mexico on July 18.

Security guards from ‘El Machete’, as they call themselves, an armed group composed mainly of indigenous people to defend themselves against drug cartels, are seen at a rally with indigenous communities, in Pantelho , Mexico, July 18.
(Reuters)

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The vigilantes, who appear to include members of the indigenous Tzotzil group, refer to themselves as a “self-defense force,” a phenomenon observed for years in some states in western Mexico.

A Chiapas prosecution official, who requested anonymity, told The Associated Press that an investigation into the events had been opened. The official said the gunmen belonged to El Machete.

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The 21 abducted residents were taken to San José Buena Vista Tercero, the community where the vigilante group is said to be based. The official said the gunmen were apparently looking for members of another group called “Los Herreras”.

After El Machete announced his presence earlier this month, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said he would not accept the presence of the so-called self-defense forces.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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