A Mexican government official says federal forces have detained three members of the Knight Templar drug cartel, including one he describes as a leader who was behind a lot of the bloodshed in the state.

National Public Safety System secretary Monte Rubido said Sunday that 37-year-old Jesus Vazquez Macias was detained along with two other men as part of the strategy to bring security back to Michoacan state.

But the spokesman for vigilante groups says Vazquez Macias was not a cartel leader, but rather a top hit man. Spokesman Estanislao Beltran says the "self-defense" groups will applaud the federal government's work in Michoacan only after the cartel's top four leaders are arrested.

Rubido also says 1,209 local police officers are being checked for possible links with organized crime.