January 22, 2015 / 11:52 PM / 3 years ago

Security chief in violent Mexican state steps down

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico’s Interior Ministry said on Thursday that a top security official appointed to restore order in a restive western state has stepped down, a few weeks after new outbreaks of violence.

Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said the federal government’s security commissioner for Michoacan state, Alfredo Castillo, would take on a new role in the government, without giving any more details on the reasons for his departure.

Castillo was appointed commissioner a year ago in a bid to crush a powerful drug gang known as the Knights Templar which had taken control of large swathes of Michoacan, and later became embroiled in bloody clashes with vigilante groups.

After forming an uneasy alliance with the vigilantes, the government captured or killed several Knights Templar leaders, but the gang’s boss, Servando Gomez, has eluded Castillo.

Murders in Michoacan ran high in the first half of 2014, and though they eased in later months, the homicide count for the state still reached a 16-year peak.

A December shootout in Michoacan killed 11 people, and nine people died after clashes in early January.

The federal police will now be assuming control of security in the region, Osorio Chong said.

Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz and Joanna Zuckerman Bernstein; Editing by Grant McCool

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