(CNN)In a remote, mountainous region of Mexico's Guerrero state, a group of uniformed young boys lined up on a basketball court. "Attention! Lift up your weapons now," their trainer yelled as the kids rushed into position, hands firmly holding onto their rifles. The littlest ones are training with sticks, faces covered with colored bandanas.
Children are joining a self-defense militia in Mexico
The children, ages 6-12 are training to eventually protect their community against criminal groups, in a lawless terrain where residents say no one is safe.
Guerrero state registered 1,891** intentional homicides in 2019. It was the deadliest year for Mexico as a whole since records began, with a staggering 35,588** murders, according to the National Public Safety Secretariat.
As the government of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador struggles to unravel a complex social crisis fed by turf wars between drug cartels, locals in a Guerrero town say they have no choice but to defend themselves -- and to teach their children to do the same.