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At least 15 missing in southwest Mexico's Guerrero state

At least 15 people have gone missing after an armed group briefly took control of the town of Chilapa in southwest Mexico. The town is at the center of a turf war between two rival drug gangs.

Fifteen people have disappeared in the same southwestern Mexican state where 43 trainee teachers were believed to be killed last year, the state attorney general's office announced Tuesday.

The attorney general's office of Guerrero state said the 15 went missing last week in the town of Chilapa, which has seen recent violence ahead of a national election scheduled for June 7. An investigation into the disappearances is underway.

The state of Guerrero has been plagued by drug crime and political corruption for years. The 15 people disappeared after a group of about 300 armed men entered Chilapa and took control of the town on May 9.

The armed men left the town on May 14 after making an agreement with the local government, which included the resignation of the police chief. The townspeople held protests against the presence of the group.

Of the 15 missing people, 11 have been reported kidnapped and four have disappeared, according to the attorney general's office.

"They say there were accompanying their relatives when they were snatched by a group of armed citizens," Guerrero State chief prosecutor Miguel Angel Godinez Munoz told a local radio station.

Jose Diaz Navarro, who represents the families of the missing, told the Melinio news website that the armed group "took away young men they accused of being 'halcones' [hawks]" - lookouts for gangs.

Unrelenting drug violence

Chilapa is at the center of a turf war between two rival gangs, Los Rojos and Los Ardillos. Earlier this month a Chilapa mayoral candidate from Mexico's ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party was shot dead.

The town is less than 200 kilometers (125 miles) away from the city of Iguala, where

43 students training to be teachers disappeared

last September, igniting nationwide protests and causing a crisis of confidence for President Enrique Pena Nieto.

The Mexican government says the students were abducted by corrupt local police, who then handed them over to a drug gang which executed the students and burned their bodies. The remains of only one of the missing students has been identified.

More than 100,000 people have been killed in drug violence in Mexico since 2007.

bw/cmk (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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