, Morelia Mexico October 28- Unidentified assailants armed with guns and Molotov cocktails attacked power stations in a violence-torn western Mexican state Sunday, causing blackouts in 14 towns after the suspected drug cartel attack.
The interior ministry said in a statement that national power company equipment, six fueling stations and a convenience store were targeted in the state of Michoacan, but nobody was hurt.
More than 420,000 people were left without power, including the state capital Morelia, but service was restored to 60 percent of customers late Sunday, said Federal Electricity Commission spokesman Estefano Conde.
Conde said 14 towns were affected, up from 11 reported by the government earlier.
The interior ministry statement did not identify the assailants, and its 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-defense 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 defense 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 extorsion, kidnappings and murders perpetrated by the purportedly religious Knights Templar cartel.
Sunday’s attacks cut out power in several towns that formed self defense forces, including Buenavista Tomatlan, Uruapan and La Piedad.
Four of the six fueling stations that were targeted were in the state capital.
The assailants fired guns of “various calibers” during the attacks, the interior ministry said.
Local media reported that five people were killed in a separate clash between an armed group and vigilantes in Apatzingan on Sunday while two more died in a shootout between gunmen and soldiers in Turicato.
More than 77,000 people have been killed in drug linked violence across Mexico in the past seven years.
Acts of gruesome violence have continued in Michoacan despite the military reinforcements.
In September, police found three human heads on a traffic circle while 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.