At least one of the 43 missing college students in Mexico has been identified in charred remains, a Mexican official told the Associated Press Saturday. The remains belong to Alexander Mora, which were identified by a family member, said the official, whose name was withheld. The students vanished in southwestern Mexico 10 weeks ago.
The 43 students were reportedly abducted by corrupt police and handed over to a local drug gang. Three detained gang members, who were caught in October, testified to burning their bodies near Iguala in the Mexican state of Guerrero, Mexican Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam told a press conference last month.
Investigators have used this information to look for the missing and so far have found a series of mass graves in Iguala containing the remains of 39 bodies. DNA testing showed not a single one belonged to the college students. Relatives and friends of the students have taken advantage of the police presence to go look for their loved ones. One group has so far found 16 sets of suspected human remains at various sites and handed them over to the attorney general’s office for DNA testing, according to Reuters.
The three detainees have confessed to killing the 43 college students, loading their bodies in dump trucks and burning them in a funeral pyre along the River San Juan in Cocula. Once their ashes had cooled, they were placed in garbage bags and dumped into the river.
The college students, who were training to be teachers, were protesting discriminatory hiring practices in Iguala Sept. 26. They were apparently kidnapped by police on orders of the local mayor, who was concerned they would disrupt a speech his wife was giving and wanted police to “teach them a lesson,” Mexican news media reported, citing documents in the investigation. The police opened fire on the crowd of protesters, grabbed the students and then handed them over to the gang that murdered them.
Mayor José Luis Abarca of Iguala stepped down from his position and fled but was later detained, along with his wife, by officials in November. The mayor is also suspected of killing a political activist last year, authorities told the New York Times.