Photos have emerged showing children in Mexico wielding rifles as they have been recruited by a volunteer police force to combat organized crime, a report says.
The children, who are as young as 12, paraded around a sports field before joining the patrol in Ayahualtempa, a village in the southwestern Guerrero state where authorities report being overwhelmed by kidnappings, according to Reuters.
“We can’t study because of lawlessness,” one of the teenagers was quoted by the news agency as telling the Milenio television channel, adding that he had learned how to shoot a gun following a series of lessons.
In early January, an alleged cartel drone attack in the Guerrero state left five people dead.
Four members of a family in Ayahualtempa were kidnapped and have been missing since last Friday, Reuters reports, citing the Guerrero state prosecutor’s office.
“We’re not going to allow them to kidnap us anymore, or for people to keep disappearing,” local official Antonio Toribio told Reuters, noting that the children are reinforcing the volunteer police force protecting the village of about 700.
The reported recruitment comes as Mexican authorities are cracking down on surging crime in the popular tourist destination, Tulum, as authorities seek to create a “safer and calmer environment.”
According to Tulum Mayor Diego Castañón Trejo, an additional 30 members of the Mexican Navy were added to the existing law enforcement presence in the bustling Caribbean coastal destination.
Trejo said this week that the additional 30 military personnel will bring the current force up to more than 250.
Fox News’ Sarah Rumpf-Whitten contributed to this report.