PREGNANT female vigilantes patrol the state of Michocoán in Mexico carrying assault rifles to protect themselves from the bloodthirsty Jalisco New Generation cartel. 

The group of women warriors have built a homemade tank and roadblocks to help fend off Jalisco gunmen, who are responsible for a surge in homicides in the region. 

Pictures show the female vigilantes crowding around a tank, made from a heavy-duty pickup truck with steel plate armor welded on it.

Other images show children crawling on sandbags piled up at a checkpoint protecting the entrance to the small village of El Terrero.

Many of the gun-toting female warriors have lost sons, brothers or fathers in a brutal ongoing war with the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), who are responsible for the highest murder rate in the region since 2013.

The ruthless CJNG has been Mexico's most violent crime gang in recent years, aggressively expanding its reach across the country through bold attacks against its rivals and government forces.

Their rise to dominance has been marked by brutal displays of violence – and they are known to rip out hearts of victims and hang bodies from motorway bridges in a chilling warning to rivals.

One vigilante Eufresina Blanco Nava told AP her son Freddy Barrios, 29, was kidnapped by Jalisco gunmen in a vicious attack.

She said: “They have disappeared a lot of people, a lot, and young girls, too.”

Another woman, who asked not to be named, said the brutal gang had kidnapped her 14-year-old daughter, adding: “We are going to defend those we have left, the children we have left, with our lives.”

The vigilante said: “We women are tired of seeing our children, our families disappear.

“They take our sons, they take our daughters, our relatives, our husbands.”

The El Terrero region is dominated by the New Michoacán Family and Viagras gangs, while the vicious Jalisco cartel controls the south bank of the Rio Grande river. 

The female vigilantes of El Terrero bear similarities to the “self-defence” movement launched in 2013 in the nearby town of La Ruana. 

The armed movement, launched by lime grower Hipolito Mora, took the war to the cartels amid growing frustration at the government’s failure to protect locals from gang violence. 

But Mora insisted the new female vigilantes “are not legitimate self-defence activists”. 

He said: “They are organised crime… The few self-defence groups that exist have allowed themselves to be infiltrated; they are criminals disguised as self-defence.”

Michoacán’s current governor, Silvano Aureoles, slammed the group as “criminals”. 

He said: “They are criminals, period. Now, to cloak themselves and protect their illegal activities, they call themselves self-defense groups, as if that were some passport for impunity.”

Last year, there were 2,100 homicides in the province of Michoacan, compared to 800 in 2015.

Mexican authorities estimate CJNG oversee a third of all drugs smuggled into the United States.

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