Sun, Nov 09, 2014 - Page 1 News List

Missing students murdered: Mexico

AFP, MEXICO CITY

Students block a truck carrying bottled water on the side of a highway as part of a protest in support of 43 missing students in Chilpancingo, Mexico, on Friday.

Photo: Reuters

Suspects said to be gang members have confessed to killing 43 missing Mexican students, burning their bodies for 14 hours and tossing their remains in a river, Mexican authorities said, in a case causing widespread revulsion.

Authorities say the aspiring teachers vanished after gang-linked police attacked their buses in the southern city of Iguala on Sept. 26, allegedly under orders of the mayor of Iguala and his wife in a night of terror that left six other people dead.

The police then reportedly delivered the 43 to members of the Guerreros Unidos drug gang, who told investigators they took them in two trucks to a landfill and killed them.

If the confessions are proven true, the mass murder would rank among the worst massacres in a drug war that has killed more than 80,000 people and left an estimated 22,000 others missing since 2006.

The Iguala case has drawn global condemnation, highlighted Mexico’s struggle with corruption and undermined Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto’s assurances that national violence was down.

“To the parents of the missing young men and society as a whole, I assure you that we will not stop until justice is served,” Pena Nieto said.

Mexican Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam stopped short on Friday of declaring the 43 dead and said an Austrian university would help identify the remains.

He said officials would consider the students missing until DNA tests confirm the identities.

However, he added that there was “a lot of evidence ... that could indicate it was them.”

Three Guerreros Unidos members confessed to killing the students after police handed them over between Iguala and the neighboring town of Cocula, Murillo Karam said, showing videos of the confessions.

The bodies were set on fire with gasoline, tires, firewood and plastic, in a 14-hour-long inferno downhill from a Cocula garbage dump, he said.

“The fire lasted from midnight to 2pm the next day. The criminals could not handle the bodies until 5pm due to the heat,” he said.

They then crushed the remains, stuffed them in bags and threw some in a river, before burning their own clothes to hide evidence.

However, the parents, who distrust the central government, said they would not accept that their children are dead until they get a final ruling from independent Argentine forensic experts who are taking part in the investigation.

“As long as there is no proof, our sons are alive,” Felipe de la Cruz, a spokesman for the families, said at a news conference from the missing young men’s teacher-training college near Chilpancingo.

Authorities have now detained 74 people in the case, including Iguala’s ousted mayor, Jose Luis Abarca, and his wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda.

Authorities say Abarca ordered the officers to confront the students over fears they would derail a speech by his wife, who headed the local child protection agency.

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