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Cheran Police Officers Held After 8 Townsfolk Killed In Mexico

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MORELIA, Mexico -- Residents of an indigenous town in western Mexico where eight townsfolk were killed temporarily locked 16 police officers in an office to demand an investigation, authorities said Thursday.

Michoacan state secretary of government Jesus Reyna said the officers were held late Wednesday in the town of Cheran after arriving to check on an attack hours earlier that killed eight and wounded two.

A statement from Reyna's office said 13 officers were released late Thursday. The other three were freed earlier in the day.

Michoacan state Gov. Fausto Vallejo agreed to meet with residents of Cheran on Friday, it said.

A resident of Cheran reached by telephone and who would not give his name for security reasons said their demands included patrols by state police and soldiers in the town's surrounding areas.

Last year, the indigenous Purepecha people of Cheran began arming themselves and barricaded the town of 17,000 people by setting up blockades of tires and sandbags to stop illegal loggers after two townspeople were killed.

On Wednesday, two gunmen wielding automatic rifles ambushed a group checking reports of illegal logging on a nearby hill. Cheran sits near sanctuaries for Monarch butterflies.

Illegal loggers have for years cut down thousands of acres (hectares) of trees that the Purepecha depend on for log cabins, traditional medicine and resin collection. Residents say about two years ago the loggers began showing up with caravans of armed men the townspeople believe belong to La Familia, a drug cartel based in Michoacan.

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