Member of a self-defense group barricade themselves against possible a possible ambush as they arrive to the village of Las Yeguas, Michoacan state, Mexico, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014. Residents from various towns in Michoacan are protesting the arrival of vigilantes, or members of "self-defense" groups, to their communities. Vigilante groups have formed to confront drug cartels in parts of Michoacan. The Knights Templar ( Los Templarios ), a quasi-religious drug cartel, controls the area and most of the state.(AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
NUEVA ITALIA, Mexico (AP) – Gunfire has erupted in the western Mexico in an ongoing battle between community self-defense groups and the Knights Templar drug cartel as the vigilantes advance on the town of Nueva Italia.
Members of the so-called self-defense groups have surrounded City Hall and disarmed local police. They've initially been welcomed by citizens.
Shots broke out shortly after midday Sunday in the center of the town in the state of Michoacan, an area allegedly controlled by the Knights Templar.
The gunfire is being heard around the city.
The vigilantes say they are liberating territory in the so-called Tierra Caliente and are aiming for the farming hub of Apatzingan, said to be the cartel's central command. Mexican military troops are staying outside the town and there are no federal police in sight.