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Mexican high school students take up arms after village kidnappings

A volunteer police force in rural Mexico that says it is overwhelmed by local kidnappings has recruited children as young as 12 to join its ranks. This is the latest sign that some areas of the country are struggling to combat organized crime.

Armed with guns and batons and their faces covered, boys and girls marched through the local sports field this week before joining a patrol in Ayahualtempa, a mountain village in the southwestern state of Guerrero.

“We can’t study because of the lack of laws,” a recruited teenager told the Milenio television station. The boy explained how he learned to shoot a gun after a few lessons.

Violence has recently increased in Guerrero, one of Mexico's poorest states. According to human rights organizations, around 30 people were killed in early January in a drone attack allegedly carried out by the La Familia Michoacana drug cartel.

In Ayahualtempa, four members of a local family have been missing since they were abducted on Friday, the Guerrero state prosecutor's office said.

The minors are reinforcing the volunteer police force and will do their best to protect the village of about 700 people while the adults search for the missing, said Antonio Toribio, a local official.

“We will no longer allow them to kidnap us or allow people to continue to disappear,” Toribio said.

This is not the first time minors have been armed in Guerrero, where authorities are struggling to combat powerful drug trafficking gangs.

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