The vigilante groups operating in the western Mexican state of Michoacan have started disarming, federal officials said.

Community self-defense group members started registering their weapons with federal officials on Monday, the first step toward legalizing the organizations, the federal commissioner for security and development in Michoacan, Alfredo Castillo, said.

The process of "disarming, registration of weapons and demobilization" of the self-defense groups will continue until May 10, Castillo said.

Defense Secretariat personnel opened registration centers in the cities of Paracuaro, San Juan Nuevo Parangaricutiro and Coalcoman, three of the 27 places where vigilante groups were organized in the state.

Castillo precisó que hasta ahora los civiles han registrado 265 armas de fuego en Coalcomán, 165 en Parácuaro y 60 en San Juan Nuevo Parangaricutiro.

Each weapon surrendered undergoes a ballistics test to determine whether it was used in a murder or other crime, Castillo said, adding that firearms testing positive were seized.

Under the terms of the agreements reached by the vigilantes and the government, civilians are allowed to register pistols but must surrender assault rifles, grenade launchers and large-caliber weapons.

A total of 665 vigilantes have signed up to join the rural state police force, a law enforcement agency that will be run by Michoacan's government, Castillo said.

The federal government and the leaders of the state's community self-defense groups signed an agreement on April 24 that calls for stronger coordination of efforts to fight the Caballeros Templarios drug cartel.

The first step toward integrating the vigilantes into organized agencies was taken on Jan. 27 with the signing of an agreement between federal officials and community self-defense group leaders.

The first community self-defense groups were formed in Michoacan in February 2013 to fight the Caballeros Templarios.

The criminal organization, which was founded in December 2010 by former members of the Familia Michoacana cartel, deals in both synthetic drugs and natural drugs.

The federal government deployed soldiers and police in Michoacan on Jan. 13 in an effort to end the wave of drug-related violence in the state. EFE