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Search for missing Mexico students moves to waste dump

Rebecca Blackwell, AFP | Forensic examiners look for human remains below the Cocula municipal dump, October 2014

Mexican police and Argentinian forensic experts were probing a waste dump in the southern state of Guerrero in search of the bodies of 43 students who went missing one month ago as family members despaired over the lack of progress in the case.

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The search for the students from a rural teacher’s training school moved to the Cocula municipal dump on Tuesday. The site is described as an 8 square-metre area below the ridge of the town waste centre.

Investigators were tipped off to the location by two members of the Guerreros Unidos cartel, who were detained on Monday as suspects in the disappearances, Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam told a press conference on Tuesday.

However, the official was careful not to hail a breakthrough in the troubling case, insisting he still had nothing concrete on the whereabouts of the students.

“I can’t even talk to you about a mass grave. We have been very careful to provide precise information, avoiding speculation. We are not working with our imaginations, only with facts,” Murillo Karam told reporters.

Witnesses saw local police round up the students in the city of Iguala on September 26, and police now in custody have admitted they later handed the students over to local gang members.

The discovery of a mass grave on the outskirts of Iguala shortly thereafter was quickly linked to the forced disappearance, but Mexican authorities have said the remains found in the first pit did not match DNA samples of the missing students.

The Cocula waste dump was being secured by members of Mexico’s army and federal police, while dozens of workers combed the surface of the site for clues and sniffer dogs were used to identify human remains.

Members of the media taken to the dump by authorities saw clothing, but nothing that resembled body parts.

Patience running out

The two arrests on Monday and an additional one on Tuesday put the total at 57 detainees in the case.

However, Iguala mayor Jose Luis Abarca, who federal authorities accused of ordering the attack on the students to prevent them from disrupting a public even held by his wife, is still on the run.

The case has highlighted the deeply ingrained collusion between some Mexican politicians and powerful drug gangs, as well as the striking violence that has become commonplace in the huge Latin American country.

With the Mexican government's tardy approach to the disappearances entering its second month, patience was running out even among many of those who supported the government.

Parents of the missing students and their allies are staging increasingly angry protests in the state capital, Chilpancingo, blocking roads and taking public buildings.

On Tuesday, hundreds of residents of Iguala, dressed in white and chanting “Iguala wants peace!” marched through the city – in this case to condemn the recent burning of the city hall by protesters aligned with the missing students' families.

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