December 4, 2014 / 3:49 AM / 3 years ago

Mexico sends federal troops into towns plagued by drug gangs

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican federal troops will replace local police in 32 municipalities, a top security official said on Wednesday, in a bid to contain drug gangs that have fueled a surge in violence and often operate in league with local police.

Last week, President Enrique Pena Nieto vowed to stop collusion between officials and drug gangs as he tried to defuse anger over an apparent massacre of 43 students in September in the southwestern state of Guerrero.

Monte Alejandro Rubido, director of the National Security Commission, said in a statement that military troops and federal police had taken control of security operations in the municipalities spread across the states of Guerrero, Michoacan and the State of Mexico.

The government did not say how many federal troops had been deployed in the operation.

Pena Nieto is under growing pressure from protesters to end impunity and brutality by security forces since the trainee teachers were abducted by corrupt police and handed over to a local drug gang in the city of Iguala on Sept. 26.

The disappearances have been the toughest challenge yet faced by Pena Nieto, who took office two years ago vowing to restore order in Mexico, where about 100,000 people have died in violence linked to organized crime since 2007.

Homicide rates have fallen slightly since Pena Nieto took over, but the number of crimes such as kidnapping and extortion, often committed by corrupt police, have continued to rise.

Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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