A man belonging to the Self-Defense Council of Michacan, (CAM), smokes a cigarette while waiting to move into the larger town of Nueva Italia to flush out alleged members of the Knights Templar drug cartel in the town of Antunez, Mexico, Sunday Jan. 12, 2014. 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. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
One of the vigilante groups operating in Mexico's Tierra Caliente region peacefully entered the city of Apatzingan, the main stronghold of the Knights Templar drug cartel.
About 100 men under the command of Hipolito Mora, leader of the vigilante group in the community of La Ruana, entered Apatzingan on Saturday morning.
The self-defense group members went into the city unarmed and made their way to the cathedral.
The men met with the Rev. Gregorio Lopez, Mora said.
The Federal Police and the army provided security during the day in Apatzingan, Mora said.
The other vigilante groups operating in the Tierra Caliente region, which takes its name from the high temperatures in the area and straddles Michoacan, Guerrero and Mexico states, called on federal officials to arrest Mora for violating a compact among the community self-defense groups to take Apatzingan.
Los Caballeros Templarios, a gang founded in December 2010 by former members of the La Familia Michoacana cartel, deals in both synthetic and natural drugs.
The gang commits murders, stages kidnappings and runs extortion rackets that target business owners and transport companies.
The cartel uses Michoacan's 270 kilometers (168 miles) of coastline to smuggle chemical drug precursors for the production of synthetic drugs into Mexico.
Civilians began arming themselves last year to fight the Caballeros Templarios, which operates across Michoacan.
The federal government deployed soldiers and police in Michoacan on Jan. 13 in an effort to end the wave of violence in the state.
Dionisio Loya Plancarte, one of the cartel's top leaders, was arrested by federal forces late last month.