The leader of a federation of self-defense groups in the western Mexican state of Michoacan is recovering favorably from injuries sustained when the small plane in which he was traveling crash-landed last weekend, doctors said.

Jose Manuel Mireles Valverde, leader of the Self-Defense Groups Council of Michoacan, is making a "satisfactory" and "very rapid" recovery, one of the physicians treating him at a private hospital in this capital told reporters.

The clinic is heavily guarded by security personnel because Mireles has received death threats from the Los Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar) criminal organization, which operates in Michoacan.

An associate of the vigilante leader was killed and four others, including Mireles, were injured last Saturday when the small plane made an emergency landing in La Huacana, a town in Michoacan.

Government Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong attributed the crash to pilot error and ruled out the possibility of an attack.

Mireles sustained facial trauma, several broken ribs and head injuries in the crash and has already undergone one surgery.

But, according to the physician, who spoke on condition on anonymity for security reasons, the patient is already walking around his room and his stay in the hospital is expected to be short.

The plane crash happened hours after the vigilante group led by Mireles entered Paracuaro, a city in the Tierra Caliente region, which straddles Michoacan, Guerrero and Mexico states.

The vigilantes clashed with gunmen suspected of being on the payroll of Los Caballeros Templarios, leaving a self-defense group member dead, security officials said.

The self-defense group members disarmed police in Paracuaro and formed a security council to protect the city.

Community self-defense groups have multiplied over the past year in Michoacan and the neighboring state of Guerrero.

Indigenous communities in both states mobilized to defend themselves against the Caballeros, which are said to dominate the trade in synthetic drugs bound for the United States, such as crystal meth.

The gang also preys on ordinary people, engaging in extortion, kidnapping and murder.

On Friday, hooded individuals who identified themselves as residents of the Michoacan town of Paracuaro, burned commercial establishments, seven vehicles and two government offices in the city of Apatzingan, saying they were protesting the growing presence of the self-defense groups.

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