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'Knights Templar' drug gang emerges in Mexico

11 march 2011, 02:22
A suspected new Mexican drug gang calling itself "Knights Templar" has emerged in the western state of Michoacan, according to public banners displayed Thursday, AFP reports.

The messages, appearing in state capital Morelia and several other towns, said the new gang would take over from the mysterious La Familia cartel, including its "altruistic activities."

A series of banners appeared in Michoacan and neighboring Guerrero state in January claiming La Familia had decided to disband, shortly after its leader died in a shootout with police.

Street banners are commonly used by drug gangs to pass on threats or messages.

"From today we'll be working in the area, carrying out altruistic activities which La Familia did before," read one message posted in Morelia and later removed by authorities.

It promised to "maintain order and avoid theft, kidnappings and extortion and protect the state from rival organizations."

It was signed "Knights Templar," alluding to a medieval religio-military order which was also featured in the international bestseller "The Da Vinci Code."

Authorities have reported no previous activities from the alleged new gang.

They consider La Familia, or The Family, to be one of the seven main Mexican drug cartels, supposedly promoting family values and quasi-religious zealotry while using brutal enforcement methods.

La Familia has been hit hard under a military crackdown on organized crime launched by President Felipe Calderon in 2006, including the killing of its leader Nazario Moreno last December.

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