Friday 30 September 2016

Sixty mass graves found in Mexico - but none contains 43 missing students

James Badcock in Washington

Published 28/07/2015 | 02:30

Relatives of the 43 missing students from the Isidro Burgos rural teachers college march holding pictures of their missing loved ones during a protest in Mexico City. Photo: AP
Relatives of the 43 missing students from the Isidro Burgos rural teachers college march holding pictures of their missing loved ones during a protest in Mexico City. Photo: AP

The hunt for 43 Mexican students believed to have been killed after clashes with police in Guerrero state last year has turned up 60 mass graves containing at least 129 bodies - although none of them are thought to belong to the missing group.

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The series of gruesome discoveries, revealed by Mexico's attorney general's office, demonstrates the extent of lawlessness in Guerrero, one of several Mexican states to be caught up in a whirlwind of violence related to the drug trade and organised crime.

The fate of the students, who went missing after travelling to Iguala to protest against the state's hiring practices and collect funds for their teacher training college, prompted a backlash against Mexican authorities after the investigation revealed that the police had handed over 43 demonstrators to members of a drug gang. Six protesters were also shot dead after clashing with security forces in the city.

The official version from the investigation is that the 43 students were subsequently killed by the drug gang and their bodies incinerated. The badly burned remains of one student were found at a nearby rubbish dump, but some relatives of the other 42 missing protesters believe they may still be alive.

According to the attorney general's office, most of the dead from the 60 graves were men, but 20 women's bodies have also been dug up. The figure of 129 bodies could rise as it only reflects cases in which the government's mass grave specialists were called out.

The number of newly found mass graves in Guerrero underlines the region's unwanted status as a front line in the drug war which has claimed an estimated 100,000 Mexican lives since 2006. More than 20,000 people are officially listed as missing by the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Mexican prosecutors have charged the former mayor of Iguala and his wife in relation to the students' disappearance, alleging the group was handed over to cartel members as they were considered a nuisance to the couple's political activities, but have denied any involvement of federal security forces. They claim that the students might have been wrongly identified by their killers as members of a rival drug gang.

The Guerrero discoveries come on the back of a series of embarrassing revelations for Mr Peña Nieto's government.

Earlier this month, drug kingpin Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán escaped from a maximum security prison. Also in July, human rights groups made public a military document which appears to show that the killing of 22 people by soldiers in Tlatlaya was not the result of a firefight with a criminal gang as the army had claimed, but rather the direct result of an order to "take down criminals". (© Daily Telegraph London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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