MEXICO CITY — Three people were injured when a Mexican government helicopter became tangled in a zip line Friday and crashed in the state of Michoacan, where hundreds of security forces have arrived in recent days to quell a dispute between vigilante “self-defense” groups and the Knights Templar drug cartel.
Two police officers and a technician were injured in the crash. The pilot and co-pilot were uninjured. The helicopter went down Friday afternoon in the municipality of Tancitaro, according to a government statement.
In recent days, federal police have taken over police functions in 27 of Michoacan’s 113 municipalities, which are roughly the equivalent of U.S. counties.
The surge of troops and police came after the armed citizen vigilante groups began seizing control of a number of towns and cities and declaring their intention to storm Apatzingan, a city of more than 90,000 people that is a base of regional power for the vigilantes’ enemy, the Knights Templar drug cartel.
Some analysts said the government may have felt at some point that the vigilantes were a reasonable means for dealing with the drug cartel, which had spread and used extortion in some of the most minor business dealings. The vigilante groups began to spring up last year in a number of regions, particularly in Michoacan and the bordering state of Guerrero.