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  • Pictures of the 43 Ayotzinapa students missing since September 2014 during a protest demanding justice

    Pictures of the 43 Ayotzinapa students missing since September 2014 during a protest demanding justice | Photo: Reuters

Published 17 September 2015

Mexican authorites have long accused the gang leader of being behind last year’s disappearance of 43 Ayotzinapa students.

​Mexican authorities confirmed on Thursday to the capture of Gildardo Lopez Astudillo, the leader of Guerreros Unidos gang, who the government says is behind the disappearance of the 43 students at the Ayotzinapa teaching college in Guerrero.

During a press conference headed by National Security Commissioner Renato Sales Heredia, the government confirmed that Lopez Astudillo was detained for his alleged involvement in the disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa students.

The government official also said that 111 people are already in detention for ties to the Ayotzinapa case.

The announcement said police detained Astudillo in the city of Taxco, Guerrero, during an operation. The gang Guerreros Unidos has been blamed by Mexico's Attorney General's office for murdering and incinerating the 43 students that disappeared in Ayotzinapa last year.

However, the official account contrasts sharply with a report issued by an international group of experts appointed by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IAHRC). Their report, released earlier this month, indicates that the investigations carried out by the Mexican authorities were filled with serious flaws, including the disappearance of key evidence, which is why many in Mexico question the accuracy of the conclusions of the Attorney General's office.

RELATED: Ayotzinapa Student Remains Identified by Austrian Forensic Team

According to the experts, who visited the site where the Mexican authorities claim the bodies were burned, a fire strong enough to incinerate the 43 students would have lasted for over 60 hours, required thousands of kilograms of wood or rubber and would have burnt down the forest surrounding the site. No fires were reported in the area at the time of the disappearances.

“The flame would have inclined towards a (nearby) rubbish bin, lighting up all of the plastic in a very dry area,” explained Francisco Cox, one of the experts, during a press conference organized for the release of the report.

RELATED: PRI Rejects Commemoration of Day Against Forced Disappearances

Despite President Enrique Peña Nieto agreeing to meet the relatives of the 43 students and requesting government authorities to take into consideration the experts' findings, the detention of Lopez Astudillo could provide a swift and convenient end to the Ayotzinapa case if authorities charge the gang leader with the disappearance of the 43 students. With his detention, allegations about the involvement of members of the local police force and of the military could also become a secondary issue.

Critics have insisted in investigating the involvement of high-ranking members of the military in the disappearances.

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