In a case that has continued to outrage the nation, suspected gang members have reportedly confessed that 43 Mexican students who have been missing since six weeks were loaded onto dump trucks, murdered at a landfill, burned beyond recognition and tossed into the San Juan River in Cocul, authorities said on Friday.
A gruesome video that featured investigators combing through hundreds of charred fragments of bone and teeth fished from the river and its banks was shown by Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam at a news conference on Friday, who added that although it will be extremely difficult to extract DNA from the charred remains, authorities will continue to consider the students as missing until DNA tests confirm the identities, The Telegraph reported.
"I know the enormous pain the information we've obtained causes the family members, a pain we all share," Murillo Karam said. "The statements and information that we have gotten unfortunately point to the murder of a large number of people in the municipality of Cocula."
He added, however, that there was "a lot of evidence... that could indicate it was" the missing students.
On Sept. 26-27, Iguala city police attacked a group of students rallying to protest against government policies. Six people were killed, more than two dozen injured and more than 50 students vanished. About 15 eventually were found hiding in their homes, but 43 remained missing, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The Aytozinapa Normal school, attended by the missing students, is known for militant and radical protests that often involve hijacking buses and delivery trucks, according to Fox News.
Within days, 22 police officers were arrested for what prosecutors said was the unjustifiable use of excessive force. They are believed to have been penetrated by criminal organizations and a drug gang, known as the Guerreros Unidos, at whose behest the police might have been acting. Later in the investigation, it was alleged that the police had also acted under orders of the former Mayor Jose Luis Abarca and his wife.
At Friday's press conference, Murillo Karam also showed videotaped confessions by three Guerreros Unidos gang members "who testified they used dump trucks to carry the students to a landfill site in Cocula, a city near Iguala. About 15 of the students were already dead when they arrived at the site and the rest were shot there, according to the suspects," the Associated Press reported.
If the testimonies are proven true, it would be one of the worst massacres in a drug war that has killed more than 80,000 people and left 22,000 others missing since 2006.
The parents, human rights groups and Mexicans in general, who have been appalled by the government's slow response to the horrific case and have come to distrust them, reacted to Murillo Karam's report Friday by claiming that they would not accept that their children are dead until they get a final ruling from independent Argentine forensic experts who are taking part in the investigation, according to New York Daily News.
"As long as there are no results, our sons are alive," Felipe de la Cruz, the father of one of the disappeared. "Today they're trying to close the case this way ... a blatant way to further our torture by the federal government."
Meanwhile, authorities have now detained 74 people, including several Guerreros Unidos members, 36 Iguala and Cocula police officers and Iguala's ousted mayor Jose Luis Abarca and his wife Maria de los Angeles Pineda, according to Agence France-Presse.
The case will continue to be investigated until all those responsible for the "horrible crime" are hunted down, President Enrique Pena Nieto said.
"To the parents of the missing young men and society as a whole, I assure you that we won't stop until justice is served," Pena Nieto said.