Morelia - Mexico has disarmed more than 1 200 local police officers suspected of colluding with drug traffickers in Michoacan state and arrested 38 members of the notorious Knights Templar drug cartel active in the region.
Among those arrested was Jesus Vasquez Macias, 37, who goes by the alias "El Toro", a leading figure in the cartel, Monte Alejandro Rubido Garcia, a top federal security official, announced late on Sunday.
Garcia said federal forces have taken control of 27 municipalities in the western Mexico state and disarmed 1 209 of the local police officers.
The officers will undergo investigations, Garcia said.
They are accused of colluding with gangs by the vigilante militias that have taken up arms in recent months in restive Michoacan state.
The self-defence groups, made up of farmers and other local people, aimed to take over from local police to oust the Knights Templar from the region to stop the group's violence, kidnapping and extortion rackets.
Since February 2013, the self-defence groups have taken control of some 20 towns.
In recent days, federal forces launched a major operation in the state and tried to disarm the vigilantes as well as flush out the Knights Templar gang.
The capture of Vasquez Macias and other Knights Templar leaders was among the conditions the vigilante groups demanded before giving in to government demands they turn over their own weapons.
Vasquez Macias, who was picked up in the port city of Lazaro Cardenas, was charged with offenses related to organised crime, Rubido Garcia said.
Michoacan, where much of the population lives in poverty, has become the most pressing security issue facing Mexico President Enrique Pena Nieto, who inherited a bloody war on drugs from his predecessor in 2012 that has left more than 77 000 people dead since it was launched in 2006.