, MORELIA, Oct 28 – Unidentified assailants armed with guns and Molotov cocktails attacked power stations in a violence-torn western Mexican state on Sunday, causing blackouts in 11 towns after the suspected drug cartel attack.
The interior ministry said in a statement that national power company equipment, six fuelling stations and a convenience store were targeted in the state of Michoacan, but nobody was hurt.
The statement did not identify the assailants, and interior ministry spokesman Eduardo Sanchez said authorities were investigating the attacks.
But a government official told AFP that authorities suspect that the Knights Templar drug cartel launched the brazen assault to send a message to the population and self-defence forces that have formed in the state.
The attack on the power grid came one day after vigilante groups marched in the town of Apatzingan, a Knights Templar bastion, in a protest that left one person injured.
The cartel accuses the self-defence forces of being backed by their rivals, the Jalisco New Generation cartel.
“I think it’s an issue between rival gangs, the Knights Templar and the Jalisco cartel,” the source said on condition of anonymity. “It’s a territorial dispute.”
The attacks on the power grid were a “sanction against the people,” the official said. “More than revenge, it was a message that they won’t allow people to mess with them.”
The federal government deployed thousands of troops to Michoacan in May to bring peace to the state after months of cartel violence that prompted several towns to take up arms.
Residents of Michoacan say they formed vigilante groups to counter the wave of extortion, kidnappings and murders perpetrated by the purportedly religious Knights Templar cartel.
Sunday’s attacks cut out power in a few towns that formed self-defence forces.
The interior ministry said power was restored to 60 percent of National Electricity Commission customers after the disruptions in the towns of Buenavista Tomatlan, Tepalcatepec, Aguililla, Apatzingan, Sahuayo, La Piedad, Zinapecuaro, Uruapan, Zamora, Ciudad Hidalgo and Tuxpan.
Four of the six fuelling stations that were targeted were in the state capital, Morelia.
The assailants fired guns of “various calibres” during the attacks, the interior ministry said.
More than 77,000 people have been killed in drug-linked violence across Mexico in the past seven years.
Despite the deployment of troops, acts of gruesome violence have continued in Michoacan.
In September, police found three human heads on a traffic circle. Two weeks earlier, a local lawmaker was hacked to death by machete-wielding assailants.
A vice admiral and his assistant were shot dead in a suspected Knights Templar attack in July.
The interior ministry said Sunday’s attacks “will not stop the actions the government has undertaken to protect the population and combat the criminals who affect the Michoacan people.”