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Firefight in western Mexico as vigilantes advance into cartel stronghold

Gunfire has erupted in the western Mexico in an ongoing battle between community self-defense groups and the Knights Templar drug cartel as the vigilantes advance on the town of Nueva Italia.

Members of the so-called self-defense groups have surrounded City Hall and disarmed local police. They've initially been welcomed by citizens.

Shots broke out shortly after midday Sunday in the center of the town in the state of Michoacan, an area allegedly controlled by the Knights Templar.

The gunfire is being heard around the city.

The vigilantes say they are liberating territory in the so-called Tierra Caliente and are aiming for the farming hub of Apatzingan, said to be the cartel's central command. Mexican military troops are staying outside the town and there are no federal police in sight.