Two rural communities in south-western Mexico have formed their own vigilante police forces, detaining 44 suspected criminals and announcing that they will mete out their own justice.
Hundreds of civilians armed with rifles, pistols and machetes decided to provide security for the communities of Tecoanapa and Ayutla de los Libre in the state of Guerrero, saying gangs were committing robberies, kidnappings and murder.
The 44 suspects will be judged by the "community police and a general assembly of all the towns," Mauro Rosario Ayodoro, head of a union of local communities, told reporters on Wednesday.
"We won't hand any of them (suspects) to any government entity. Their rehabilitation will be handled in the communities," he said. "The verdicts will come from there. Those who committed crimes will pay for it, and those who didn't will be freed."
The vigilante force has put up checkpoints on roads and conducts night watches in the towns. Classes have been suspended for fear that schools could be targeted by gangs.
Civilians in other Mexican towns have taken up arms in recent years, complaining that corrupt municipal police forces were failing to protect them.
Guerrero, home to the Pacific resort town of Acapulco, has been one of the states hardest hit by Mexico's drug violence, which has left more than 70,000 people killed across the country since 2006.