Eduardo Verdugo / AP

Mexico official declares 43 missing students dead

Parents challenge conclusion a day after Mexico City protests mark four months since students’ disappearance

Mexico's attorney general on Tuesday said that evidence shows that all 43 students missing since clashing with police in September in Guerrero state were killed and incinerated at a garbage dump — a claim parents of the students challenged one day after mass protests marked four months since their disappearance.

Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam cited confessions and forensic evidence from the spot near a garbage dump where he said the students were killed and incinerated shortly after being seized by police in the southern city of Iguala.

It was the first time Murillo had bluntly declared all of the students dead, despite DNA identification of only one student and the declaration from a forensics lab in Innsbruck, Austria, that it was unable to find DNA that could be used to identify charred remains.

"The evidence allows us to determine that the students were kidnapped, killed, burned and thrown into the river," Murillo said in a press conference that included a video reconstruction of the mass murder and of the investigation into the case.

But a forensics team from Argentina called in to test human remains has said it was impossible to know if the samples provided by the government came from the incinerated remains found near Iguala.

Widespread public outrage over the disappearances has jolted the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto. Millions of protesters have taken to the streets since September, often accusing police and the state government of complicity in the crimes.

Murillo has come under fire from many circles, including the parents and experts from Mexican universities who say the government's version of what happened is implausible. 

The attorney general said he based his conclusion on 39 confessions and evidence at the scene. Murillo’s office said it obtained a key confession on Jan. 15 from gang member Felipe Rodríguez Salgado, whose declaration coincided with those made by three other gang members who allegedly participated in the executions.

Police authorities have said gang members killed and incinerated the students on Sept. 26, and that their remains were bagged and thrown into a nearby river in the following days.

Iguala’s former mayor, José Luis Abarca, has been charged with the kidnapping of the students, after confessions revealed he ordered the police crackdown on them.

The parents, who blame the state for the disappearances, remain determined to find their children alive and have consistently criticized Peña Nieto's government for its handling of the case.

During Monday’s Mexico City protests, which drew thousands of demonstrators, relatives of the students insisted that they will continue searching for their family members until there is conclusive scientific evidence that confirms the deaths.

With wire services

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