ACAPULCO, Mexico: Mexican troops and police are searching for up to 17 people who were abducted by gunmen as the group headed to a wedding in the crime-plagued southern state of Guerrero.

A state security department official told AFP on condition of anonymity that 10 people were reported missing following Saturday’s mass abduction in the municipality of Arcelia.

But Mayor Adolfo Torales said the gunmen took away 17 men after stopping a convoy of families in cars in the community of El Salitre in the late afternoon.

“They took just the men, leaving the women and children,” Torales told Radio Formula.

Torales said that the gunmen accused the men of being members of the drug cartel known as La Familia Michoacana.

But, the mayor said, the missing are “totally innocent” people, among them “blacksmiths, shopkeepers, farmers. They’re very poor people.”

State police had reported over the weekend that at least seven people were kidnapped by an armed group that intercepted a convoy of vehicles heading to the village of La Palma.

The bullet-riddled bodies of two men were found at the scene of the abduction along with some 15 abandoned cars, including two that were burned, and two motorcycles.

A third body was found 300m from the road.

The mayor said that the gunmen took the 17 men under a bridge and told the women and children to go “the other way and not return for three hours.”

The families said that they ran into federal police who ignored their pleas for help, according to Torales.

Guerrero has been plagued by violence and multiple cases of missing people, including the disappearance and presumed massacre of 43 students in September 2014.

Opium poppies are grown in the mountains and drug cartels, such as the Guerreros Unidos and Los Rojos, are fighting fierce turf wars in several towns.

Governor Hector Astudillo said “an important deployment” of troops and police was sent to the area to search for the 17 missing men.

Hundreds of people – relatives of the missing and residents of Arcelia – held a protest in the town on Tuesday, demanding that authorities find them.

The protesters, most wearing white, held signs saying “we want justice for the missing” and “we want the federal police out.”

In another incident, five teachers were kidnapped from a secondary school in the town of Ajuchitlan del Progreso on Monday, a state police official said. The teachers were bundled into a car and taken away. – AFP