MEXICO CITY (AP) - Members of a masked vigilante group in southern Mexico are demanding that authorities free 44 arrested colleagues.
The government arrested most of the "self-defense" force last week on weapons charges.
The vigilantes from the town of Aquila claim they have taken up arms to defend themselves from the Knights Templar drug cartel. They said Monday at a news conference in Mexico City that the cartel demanded to be given 700,000 pesos ($54,000) that the townspeople earned from mining royalties.
Aquila is in the western state of Michoacan, where several towns have formed self-defense squads in recent months.
In the neighboring state of Guerrero over the weekend, another self-defense group swore in dozens of women as members in the town of Xaltianguis.