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Armed children aged 6-15 in Mexico are recruited by vigilante group in wake of indigenous deaths

Children as young as six have been armed with rifles and recruited as members of a vigilante group following the murders of 10 indigenous people in Mexico.  

Images show 19 children touting rifles in the municipality of Chilapa de Alvarez and Jose Joaquin de Herrera, in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero. 

They have been recruited as the newest members of vigilante group protesting last week's murders of 10 indigenous musicians and the wider violence in the area.

Children as young as five could be seen wearing bandannas and holding rifles almost as long as they were tall. At least 19 of the children were paraded like little soldiers through the southern Mexican state of Guerrero 

Locals say the children were new 'community police officers' that they had recruited in protest of growing violence in the region and to draw politicians attention to their cause 

The 19 children were presented as 'community police officers' and members of the Regional Coordinator of Communitary Authorities at a recent press conference. 

Local media said the children, who had acted like soldiers, posing with rifles and aiming them at the ground, were being trained to fight against violence in the region.  

The recruits were also paraded through the Alcozacan community where roads have been blocked after the ten members of the band 'Sensacion' were murdered.

Prosecutor Jorge Zuriel de los Santos Barrila alleged the musicians had been attacked by a criminal gang called 'Los Ardillos' whilst travelling in two vans to Alcozacan.

Reports state when the band saw they were being attacked they sped up but one van was hit by a grenade, killing five men, while the other band members had their throats slit. 

A 15-year-old boy was among the victims.

One of the leaders of the vigilante group said it was only children aged between 12 and 15 who would be used to guard the village. Those under 12 were only being trained, but not put to work 

The state government encouraged the community to respect the human rights of the children. However, the local leaders say officials are not doing enough to reduce the levels of violence in the area

Bernardino Sanchez Luna, one of the leaders of the community police, told local media 'they have seen the government has no skill or interest in defending indigenous people from criminal gangs'.

He said the children had been recruited to encourage politicians to visit the community and attend to their requests.

Mr Luna said the children under 12 are only being trained but those aged between 12 and 15 would be armed and guard the villagers. 

He also said the children, 66 of whom had been orphaned in the recent violence, needed weapons to prevent them from being kidnapped by gangs. 

Currently, Mr Luna said, children in the area only attended primary school as they were too scared to leave their communities to attend secondary school. 

The government of the state told local media 'we are calling the community police to respect, according to the law, the human rights of the children'.