Mass grave found in Mexico after student protesters go missing
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A mass grave has been unearthed in in southern Mexico by security forces investigating the role of local police in clashes with students, raising fears the pits might hold 43 students missing since the confrontations.
Guerrero State Prosecutor Inaky Blanco did not say Saturday night how many bodies were in six burial pits uncovered on a hillside on the outskirts of the southern town of Iguala, and he declined to speculate about whether the dead were the missing students.
The students were protesting against what they claimed are discriminatory hiring practices for teachers that favour urban students over rural ones.
“It would be irresponsible” to jump to conclusions before tests to identify the bodies, Blanco said. Officials said the federal Attorney General’s Office and the National Human Rights Commission had sent teams of experts to aid state authorities in identifying the remains.
Guerrero Gov. Angel Aguirre said the victims had been “savagely slaughtered.”
About 100 soldiers, marines and federal and state police cordoned off the area where the grave site was found in the poor Pueblo Viejo district of Iguala, which is about 120 miles (200 kilometres) south of Mexico City.
"The Mexican state cannot permit such an outrageous incident to go unpunished,” said Mexican Federal Chief of Investigations Tomas Zeron.
Some police were ‘part of organised crime’
Blanco said eight more people had been arrested in the case, adding to the 22 Iguala city police officers detained after a police confrontation with student protesters last weekend set off a series of violent incidents in the city.
The prosecutor has said state investigators had obtained videos showing that local police arrested an undetermined number of students after the initial clash and took them away.
“I saw around 30 or 40 friends being taken away by the local police,” a local eyewitness told FRANCE 24 on conditions of anonymity.
The eight newly arrested people had also given key clues leading to the discovery of the mass grave, said the Guerrero State Prosecutor.
He added that some of the arrested were involved in organised crime and that his investigators had also found that “elements of the municipal police are part of organised crime.”
The governor said had charged earlier in the week that organised crime had infiltrated the city government. Blanco also said his office was searching for Iguala Mayor Jose Luis Abarca and had alerted officials across Mexico to be on the lookout for him.
‘We are very nervous’
Fearing the worst for their loved ones, family members of the missing gathered along a dirt road on the outskirts of Iguala, waiting to find out if the bodies found in mass graves nearby were those of their missing children.
Jesus Lopez, the father of one of the missing students, told The Associated Press that a delegation of family and school representatives were planning to come to Iguala on Sunday to get information from authorities.
“We cannot say anything. We are very nervous, but until they inform us, there is nothing,” said Lopez, whose 19-year-old son, Giovani, hasn’t been seen since the violence last weekend.
State prosecutors have said the first bloodshed occurred when city police shot at buses that had been hijacked by protesting students from a teachers college, killing three youths and wounding 25. A few hours later, unidentified masked gunmen shot at two taxis and a bus carrying a soccer team on the main highway, killing two people on the bus and one in a taxi.
Violence is frequent in Guerrero, a southern state where poverty feeds social unrest and drug gangs clash over territory.
The missing students attended the Aytozinapa Normal school, which, like many other schools in Mexico’s “rural teachers college” system, is known for militant and radical protests that often involve hijacking buses and delivery trucks.
In December 2011, two students from Aytozinapa died in a clash with police on the highway that leads to the Pacific coast resort of Acapulco. Students had allegedly hijacked buses and blocked the road to press demands for more funding and assured jobs after graduation. Two state police officers were charged in the shootings.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, REUTERS)