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Chilling note found alongside severed heads in Mexico

MORELIA, Mexico--A chilling note was found alongside the severed heads and dismembered bodies of four people on Thursday in the Mexican state of Michoacan, where vigilantes are battling a drug cartel, authorities said.

The heads were placed on top of plastic bags on a street in the town of Zacapu, an official in the Michoacan state prosecutor's office told AFP. The arms and legs were found near a church.

A note was left near the body parts, reading: “This is what will happen to those who support the Knights Templar” cartel.

The victims have been identified and authorities are trying to determine whether they are linked to organized crime, the official said.

Alfredo Castillo, a central government official assigned to address the violence in Michoacan, said an alleged local leader of the Knights Templar was arrested early Thursday.

He was identified as Candido Perez Garcia and allegedly collected extortion payments. He was found with an AK-47 assault rifle, a pistol and a cache of synthetic drugs.

In another gruesome discovery, the prosecutor's office said it had dug up the bones of two humans in the town of Tancitaro.

Last weekend, two decapitated heads were left in the town of Antunez.

The Knights Templar have been locked in a turf war with the Jalisco New Generation drug cartel.

Last year, civilians fed up with the police's failure to deal with the Knights Templar gang began to form vigilante militias to oust the criminals from the region.

The government of President Enrique Pena Nieto has deployed thousands of federal police and troops to Michoacan, seeking to restore security, but violence has continued.

Shortly after reinforcements were sent in January, assailants set fire to and looted five shops in the neighboring states of Hidalgo and Mexico State.

Federal authorities announced Thursday the arrest of 19 suspected members of a criminal organization, which they did not identify, in connection with the January 19 arson attacks. A government official, Monte Alejandro Rubido Garcia, said the suspects were arrested with guns and drugs and suggested they were members of the Knights Templar.

Nine were detained in Michoacan and 10 in Mexico State. Eight large firearms, seven smaller guns and books referring to a criminal group that operates in Michoacan were seized.

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