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Mexico mayor, wife arrested over 43 missing students

Mexico City, Nov 5 (AFP) Mexican police has detained a fugitive ex-mayor and his wife accused of ordering a deadly police attack that left 43 students missing, raising hopes of a break in a case bedeviling the nation.

Jose Luis Abarca, the former mayor of the southern city of Iguala, and Maria de los Angeles Pineda were captured by federal officers before dawn in Mexico City’s populous working-class district of Iztapalapa, authorities said yesterday. Officials hope the arrest will yield new clues about the whereabouts of the students in a disappearance that has drawn international condemnation, sparked national protests and shaken President Enrique Pena Nieto’s administration. “I hope that this arrest will contribute in a decisive manner … to the investigation undertaken by the attorney general’s office,” said Pena Nieto, who last week met parents angry at the pace of the probe.

The couple was arrested in a small, cement-colored house with a dusty courtyard, far from their opulent life in Iguala, where Abarca owned jewelry stores and his wife allegedly ran local operations for the Guerreros Unidos drug gang. “There was no violence in the operation,” a national security commission spokesman told AFP on condition of anonymity, adding that the two were being interrogated by federal prosecutors. A neighbor said the house used to be owned by an elderly couple who died months ago. Others saw a woman go in and out periodically. “We were very scared” when the police descended on the house, a woman living nearby told AFP. Authorities say the students vanished on September 26 after municipal police shot at their buses in the city of Iguala, 200 km south of Mexico City, and then handed the 43 to the Guerreros Unidos. Six people died in the night of violence. In one gangland-style killing, a dead student was found with his facial skin peeled off and eyes gouged out.

The teacher college students remain missing despite a vast search operation by troops, helicopters and boats in the state of Guerrero, where a dozen mass graves containing 38 unidentified bodies have been discovered. Guerrero’s interim governor, Rogelio Ortego, told the Televisa network that the capture could lead to “substantial leads” in the search. Manuel Martinez, a spokesman for the families of the missing, told AFP that investigators “must make him speak” because Abarca “knows where they are.” Abarca, his wife, and the city’s police chief went on the run two days after the September 26 police attack. The Guerrero state legislature impeached him weeks later.


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