At least seven people have been killed in the western Mexico state of Michoacan in battles between the federal police and members of criminal group the Caballeros Templarios.

The violence began on Thursday at around 5 p.m., when members of the gang blocked roads to a number of towns in the state and set fire to buses and other vehicles.

Three police officers were wounded in the confrontations that followed.

A statement from the Secretariat of Public Security said that members of the Caballeros Templarios fired shots in the direction of the civilian population in an attempt to “generate panic and confusion.”

Federal Police reported that they seized six rifles, six grenades, 42 AK-47 magazines, and approximately 200 rounds of ammunition.

Luis Cardenas Palomino, head of the Division of Regional Security, said that the Caballeros Templarios are engaging in a propaganda operation in an attempt to “discredit those who fight crime” and are attempting to force the withdrawal of Federal Police investigating organized crime from the state of Michoacan.

On Wednesday a severed head was discovered in a parking lot in the city of Altamirano in Guerrero state, which borders on Michoacan. A note left beside the body claimed that the killing was carried out by infamous drug trafficking organization the Familia Michoacana, and that the victim was a member of the Caballeros Templarios.

The Caballeros Templarios emerged in March 2011, as the product of a split between two rival factions of the Familia. Jesus “El Chango” Mendez, the head of the group still calling itself the Familia, was captured in June.

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