The two Indians who disappeared over the weekend in the western Mexican state of Michoacan were found dead in a rural area outside the city of Zacapu, members of the Purepecha community told Efe.

Guadalupe Jeronimo and Urbano Macias, who lived in the rebel city of Cheran, disappeared on Sunday in the forested Meseta Purepecha while herding cattle.

State police launched a land and air search for the two men after being notified by Indian leaders on Monday morning that they were missing.

The Purepecha community, the largest Indian group in Michoacan, called on the state government Tuesday to clear up the killings and threatened to take justice into its own hands if no arrests were made soon.

More than 100 Indians occupied the Legislative Palace in Morelia, the capital of Michoacan, on Tuesday afternoon to pressure the state government to identify and arrest the murderers.

Michoacan Attorney General's Office investigators are working on the theory that the two men may have been abducted by Purepecha Indians from the rival community of El Cerecito.

Macias's family said he contacted them by telephone on Sunday night and told them he and his friend had been abducted by people from El Cerecito.

Cheran and El Cerecito have been fighting for more than 20 years over the forests of the Meseta Purepecha.

Eight Indians from the two communities died in a shootout triggered by the land dispute on April 18.

Cheran residents refuse to recognize the people of El Cerecito as Indians, contending they are illegal loggers working with drug traffickers.

Cheran, where some 4,500 Indians live, is located 123 kilometers (76 miles) from Morelia, the capital of Michoacan.

The community is in the heart of the Meseta Purepecha, where Indians announced last year that they would no longer recognize the federal, state and municipal governments because officials could not protect their forests from the illegal loggers who work with organized crime groups.

Cheran is governed by the Purepecha High Council under traditional law.

The community has been barricaded for more than a year to protect residents from organized crime groups.

The Indians have set up checkpoints at Cheran's five entrances, even keeping out the police.

Cheran did not participate in Mexico's July 1 general elections. EFE