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Mexico probes disappearance of 57 students

01 october 2014, 09:51
0
A Mexican soldier stands guard at a checkpoint in Iguala, Guerrero State. ©AFP
A Mexican soldier stands guard at a checkpoint in Iguala, Guerrero State. ©AFP

 Mexican prosecutors on Monday were investigating whether local police officers were involved in the disappearance of 57 students who vanished after deadly incidents in Guerrero state, AFP reports.

Inaky Blanco Cabrera, the state's chief prosecutor, said the military and state police have been searching for the students -- on the ground and by helicopter -- since the mass disappearance was reported on Sunday.

The students disappeared following a bout of violence in the town of Iguala late Friday and Saturday that left six people dead and 25 wounded in different parts of the southern state.

Fellow students from the rural teacher training school of Ayotzinapa broke windows and doors of the state legislature in Guerrero's capital, Chilpancingo, in a protest Monday demanding justice for the dead and the whereabouts of those missing.

Four people died in attacks by groups of unidentified gunmen wearing masks who shot at cars and a bus carrying a third-division football team, killing two players.

Authorities say another two died after municipal police fired at buses that were seized by students protesting against discriminatory hiring practices.

State authorities detained 22 municipal officers, including 16 who are believed to have fired their weapons. In all, investigators questioned 162 officers.

"It's undeniable that excessive use of force took place," Cabrera told reporters in Acapulco, adding that there was "no justification for the use of firearms."

He said that authorities are also investigating whether "forced disappearances" took place, a term used for the abduction of people by security forces.

Traffic cameras caught civilians in the back of a municipal police car while a witness said students were seen in the town's jail cells, the prosecutor said.

 Mayor was at party 

Cabrera said authorities are investigating whether an organized crime group was involved in the other shootings because some of the unidentified gunmen wore dark clothes and masks and drove black sport-utility vehicles.

The town of 140,000 people appeared calm on Monday, as shops and schools operated normally while military vehicles patrolled the streets.

Soldiers and state police manned checkpoints on the three roads leading to Iguala.

"We heard about the shootings but people are calm, without fear," said newsstand owner Rufina Mendez.

Mayor Jose Luis Abarca came under scrutiny after telling a radio station on Monday that he had not been aware of the shootings because he was at a ball with his wife.

Cabrera said prosecutors are "not ruling out" any possible involvement by the mayor or the town security chief in the police violence.

Guerrero is one of Mexico's poorest and most violent states, marked by drug gang turf wars and frequent protests by teachers resisting reforms.


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