The 43 teacher trainees missing since a Sept. 26 incident in the southern state of Guerrero involving gangsters and corrupt cops are dead, Mexican Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam said Friday, citing statements from three suspects in custody.
Patricio Reyes, Jonathan Osorio and Agustin Garcia confessed to having killed the students and burned their bodies, the attorney general told a press conference.
More than 70 people, including police and public officials, have been arrested in connection with the events that took place the night of Sept. 26 in Iguala, Guerrero, when municipal police fired gunshots at students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Normal School, a nearby teacher-training facility.
Six people died that night, 25 were wounded and 43 Ayotzinapa students were detained and then handed over to members of the Guerreros Unidos drug cartel.
The cops were allegedly acting on orders from Iguala's then-mayor, Jose Luis Abarca, and his wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda, who were tracked down Monday in Mexico City after weeks on the run.
I have no doubt there was a massive homicide there, Murillo said Friday as he presented a reconstruction of the crime that included a video filmed at the dump in Cocula, a town near Iguala, where the killers disposed of the students' bodies.
They burned them, clothes and all, the attorney general said.
Some of the students were dead or unconscious before being set ablaze, Murillo said, apparently suggesting that others were burned alive.
For the purposes of the investigation, the students will continue to be classified as missing until the remains are definitively identified by specialists at the University of Innsbruck in Austria, he said.
Reyes, Osorio and Garcia told investigators they took the 43 students to the Cocula dump and set them on fire, Murillo said.
After watching the bonfire burn for more than 14 hours, the killers collected the ashes and bones in eight garbage bags and then tossed the bags into a nearby river, the attorney general said.
Authorities managed to recover one of the bags intact and its contents will be analyzed to confirm the suspects' account, he said.
Though accustomed to horrific violence after eight years of a murky, many-sided drug war that has claimed some 130,000 lives, Mexicans have been shocked and outraged by the case of the Ayotzinapa students.