Gunmen kidnap 17 people from homes in Mexico

ACAPULCO, Mexico (AFP) - Gunmen have kidnapped at least 17 people after bursting into several homes in a rural municipality in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, officials said on Tuesday.

Travelling in several vehicles, the assailants snatched 12 men, three women and two high school students on Sunday in four areas of the central municipality of Cocula, said Guerrero state government spokesman Jose Villanueva.

Public security department sources said the figure may rise because authorities have yet to corroborate other alleged kidnappings reported by more families.

Cocula mayor Cesar Miguel Penaloza Santana said the kidnappings took place despite the presence of police and troops who were deployed following a wave of crime in the municipality, located 214km south of Mexico City.

"The situation in our municipality is unfortunate. Regrettably, this happened amid the military protection. We are overwhelmed by crime and unfortunately a lot of people are involved in criminal acts," Mr Penaloza told Agence France-Presse.

Governor Angel Aguirre Rivero led an emergency meeting with his security team following the mass kidnapping.

Several towns have formed vigilante groups in Guerrero state to fight off drug gangs that terrorised their communities.

Mexico has been plagued by drug-related murders as well as kidnappings in recent years, with official figures showing 1,317 cases in 2012 and 640 in the first five months of this year.

On May 26, 12 young people were kidnapped in broad daylight in a popular district of Mexico City, where such mass abductions are rare.