Girl dies in Mexico clashes after vigilante leader arrested

Girl dies in Mexico clashes after vigilante leader arrested
Soldiers stand guard at a checkpoint on an highway in Contepec, in Michoacan state, July 12, 2015.
PHOTO: Reuters

MORELIA, Mexico - A 12-year-old girl was killed and four others were injured in violent protests after the leader of a local vigilante group was arrested in the western Mexican state of Michoacan Sunday.

Gunfire erupted after the arrest of the leader of the self-defense militia, Cemei Verdia, and both soldiers and members of the vigilante group swapped blame for the violence.

The girl died of a gunshot wound, while four others were injured, including a six-year-old and a 17-year-old.

Verdia was arrested Sunday in La Placita in Aquila municipality, after he was accused of violating firearms and explosives laws.

At the time of his arrest he was carrying two rifles, a handgun and 69 cartridges of ammo, according to the Michoacan Coordination Group, a local security coordination organization.

Members of Verdia's vigilante group said the soldiers tried to disarm them and that they were attacked when they blocked roads in protest of Verdia's arrest.

One member said they used their weapons in self-defense.

"There were seven convoys of soldiers, they all came to our base in La Placita. When we saw people running scared, we immediately activated (our weapons)," Ampelio Verdia Guzman, a relative of Cemei Verdia, told AFP.

Vigilante militias, comprised mostly of local farmers, were established in violence-plagued Michoacan in 2013 to fight off the powerful Knights Templar drug cartel.

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