The ragtag Self-Defense Council of Michoacán is riding around in bullet-riddled, bomb-charred pickups as the group fights to seize control of Apatzingán, a city in Mexico's Tierra Caliente valley, from control of a major drug cartel. And the Mexican government wants to stop them.

The vigilante forces—possibly including some otherwise-affiliated gangland conscripts—have been engaging the so-called Knights Templar cartel in daylight gun battles, a flare-up of tensions that yielded smaller scale violence in earlier months. This past weekend, the Knights Templar launched firebombs at city hall and several downtown businesses as retaliation against the ongoing assault.

Meanwhile Mexico's attorney general has sent 70 federal investigator to the state of Michoacán, which broadly serves as the Knights Templar's base of operations.

From The New York Times:

. . . Hipólito Mora, one of the leaders of the self-defense groups, told the local news media that first the government must arrest the leaders of the Knights Templar. "We will hold out," Mr. Mora told the newspaper El Universal on Monday. "I agree that one day we will have to lay down our weapons, and I would love to go back to work." He added, "But the government should recognize that this is their failing."

As of Monday, Mexico's interior minister, Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, continues to promise citizens that the federal government will contain the violence in Michoacán.

The Mexican government has been waging its official campaign against drug cartel violence in Michoacán since December 2006.