Mexican officials in the State of Guerrero are searching for 57 students from a teachers’ college who went missing on Friday after a series of fatal shootings in the city of Iguala.
Guerrero Attorney General Inaki Blanco said the incident that led to the disappearances started Friday night after students from the Isidro Burgos teachers' college seized three intercity buses following a protest against education reforms in Iguala and attempted to drive the hijacked vehicles back to the village of Ayotzinapa, where their college is located.
The students were intercepted by municipal police on the outskirts of Iguala and were shot at by officers after they refused to surrender the stolen buses, Blanco said. No one was killed in the first attack.
“We cannot deny, that there was an excessive use of force,” Blanco said in a press conference that was broadcast live on Mexican news channels. “We are planning to launch criminal indictments against those who are responsible for it.”
Blanco said 22 municipal police officers have been arrested and are under investigation for their involvement in the incident.
Following the shooting, students called journalists to the scene, where they blocked the road with rocks.
Hours later, around midnight, a group of unknown gunmen dressed in civilian clothes arrived on the scene and shot at the students and journalists gathered there, according to the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center, an NGO that monitors human rights abuses in Guerrero. Two students were killed and five more were injured.
“This second armed aggression lasted around 15 minutes,” the rights group said in a statement on Monday.
A few hours later, unidentified gunmen in Iguala targeted another bus carrying the Chilpancigo Wasps — a division-three soccer team – killing three people.
It is unclear whether the incidents are related.
The following day, the Mexican army found another cadaver near the site of the first bus shooting. The victim was identified as Julio Cesar Fuentes Mondragon, a student of the Burgos teachers’ college. His face had been peeled off and his body showed signs of torture.
Attorney General Blanco said a team of state detectives, civil emergency workers, and Mexican soldiers is searching for the missing students; a helicopter has been circulating over the city of Iguala to provide assistance.
He said 40 of the students who went missing after Friday night's attacks have already been located, but 57 people remain unaccounted for.
“We’ve called the students’ families to make sure that they are indeed missing,” Blanco said. “Students from the teachers’ college are also participating in these operations, in order to provide authorities with helpful information.”
Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.