Heavily armed vigilante groups are refusing to lay down their weapons in their territorial dispute with a drug cartel in Mexico. The vigilantes have been trying to drive out the Knights Templar gang from a region of Michoacan State.

After a weekend of firefights, the government announced that it would take on security duties in the area.

Fighting between vigilantes and alleged cartel members has racked Michoacan for almost a year. President Enrique Pena Nieto's government already has sent thousands of federal police officers and soldiers to the state, but the situation has only worsened.

Rumours circulate that some vigilante groups have been infiltrated by the rival New Generation cartel, which they vehemently deny. In turn, some vigilantes claim local and state police are in the employ of the Knights Templar.

vigilantes take cover
Vigilantes take cover after hearing of a possible ambush in Tierra CalienteReuters
masked vigilantes
Masked vigilantes stand at a checkpoint in Mugica near ApatzinganReuters
vigilante spitting
A vigilante spits on the ground during a shootout after taking over the village of Paracuaro in Michoacan stateReuters
police inspect weapons
A soldier inspects a weapon handed over by a female municipal police officer in Apatzingan where military personnel disarmed local police officers and registered their firearmsReuters
vigilante shopping
An armed vigilante shops in a store in Poturo in the state of MichoacanReuters
mireles plane
Soldiers guard a damaged plane that was carrying vigilante leader Jose Manuel Mireles, head of Michoacan state's community police, after an accident in Aguacana in Michoacan stateReuters
Jose Manuel Mireles, leader of the vigilantes,is pictured in Churumuco in Michoacan state on December 29, 2013. Mireles and four other people were injured when the plane they were travelling in crashed on January 4, 2014Reuters
body coffin
A man looks at the body of Mario Perez who was killed when soldiers reportedly opened fire in Antunez as residents tried to stop them from disarming vigilantes. Perez, a local fruit harvester, was not a member of the vigilante groups, his family saidReuters
vigilantes vehicle
Vigilantes patrol the streets after taking the town of ParacuaroReuters
truck gun
Vigilantes keep a rifle in easy reach as they eat on a municipal police truck in ChurumucoReuters
beer truck looter
A looter carries boxes of beer from a burning Corona truck at a road block allegedly set up by followers of the Knights Templar cartel in Tierra CalienteReuters