ACAPULCO, Mexico (AFP) – Mexican authorities announced Friday the arrest of the “maximum leader” of a drug gang accused of colluding with crooked police in the disappearance of 43 college students.
Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam said the arrest of Guerreros Unidos kingpin Sidronio Casarrubias would open a “new line of investigation that can quickly and more easily get us closer to the truth” in the case.
The announcement came hours after thousands of protesters marched in Acapulco to demand the safe return of the 43 young men, who went missing in the southern state of Guerrero three weeks ago.
Tomas Zeron, director of investigations in the prosecutor’s office, said the “maximum leader” of the Guerrero-based gang was arrested Thursday at a police checkpoint on a highway between Mexico City and the nearby city of Toluca.
The announcement came three days after authorities said another Guerreros Unidos leader, Benjamin Mondragon, killed himself when federal police surrounded him in the central state of Morelos.
Authorities say the gang worked hand-in-hand with corrupt municipal officers in a night of violence in the city of Iguala on September 26 that left six people dead and the 43 aspiring teachers missing.
Iguala’s officers shot at the students’ buses and then handed them to their counterparts in the neighbouring town of Cocula, who delivered the 43 young men to the Guerreros Unidos, according to authorities.
Casarrubias denied ordering the attack on the students but was informed when it happened and did nothing to stop it, Murillo Karam said.
A total of 36 municipal officers have been arrested in the case, along with 17 Guerreros Unidos members and their boss, he said.
The attorney general said investigators are still analysing the contents of three mass graves found near Iguala after declaring last week that 28 bodies in one pit did not belong to the students.
More than 1,200 security forces are looking for the college students around Iguala.
The mass disappearance has sparked international and national outrage, with protests held across Mexico last week and a new demonstration in the Pacific resort city of Acapulco on Friday.