Jorge Dan Lopez/Reuters

Dozens of students missing in Mexico after police fire on protest

Six killed in clashes between security forces and students last week; whereabouts of 43 students still unknown

Masked demonstrators on Tuesday marched through the streets of Chilpancingo, capital of Mexico’s Guerrero state, as they hijacked vehicles and smashed congressional building windows — a violent reaction to a recent bout of police-led violence that has left six people dead and 43 students missing.

The students, from Ayotzinapa’s Normal School, which trains future teachers, had protested on Friday over increasing university fees and imposed government educational reforms.

In the aftermath of the clashes between security forces and students last week, 22 officers from the city of Iguala were detained Monday and charged with homicide. The violent rampage has raised eyebrows and calls for swift justice in a country hardened by years of drug-fueled violence.

The spell of bloodshed began Friday and Saturday when police clashed with students in Iguala who had seized several buses in a protest. Municipal police later opened fire on three buses hijacked by the students, known for their radical activism. Three of the dead were identified as students, while the other victims were bus passengers.

Several students who were riding in a fourth bus fled after police officers started shooting in the air, according to local reports. Fourteen of the original 57 students reported missing were located Tuesday. A student who survived the shootings, meanwhile, told Agence France-Presse that he saw police officers take 30 to 40 students away in police vehicles and that they have yet to be found.

“Many of the students fled in order to get out of harm’s way,” state prosecutor Iñaky Blanco told local media on Tuesday, adding that the missing students may have been kidnapped.

The Ayotzinapa students were scheduled to join other students in Mexico City on Tuesday in a national protest in favor of educational reform, with additional protests scheduled on Oct. 2 to commemorate students killed by security forces on the same day in 1968. In that protest, up to 300 students and civilians were killed by military and police in the Tlatelolco section of the capital while demonstrating against the government’s infringement on student rights.

Guerrero, one of Mexico’s poorest states, has been plagued by social unrest in recent years. The state, along with Michoacan, is home to Mexico’s controversial vigilante, or self-defense, movement, in which armed citizen patrols protect communities from cartel violence. Guerrero had Mexico’s highest homicide rate in 2013 — a murder rate fueled by a turf war between splinter groups of formerly big cartels.

The Guerrero shootings come as the military faces its own problems. Federal prosecutors announced charges on Tuesday against three soldiers accused of executing 22 gang suspects south of Mexico City in June. After an initial firefight with gang members, according to attorney general Jesús Murrillo, the three soldiers entered a warehouse where the suspects were holed up and opened fire with “no justification whatsoever.”

With wire services

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