Mexico’s federal forces have taken over security in a southern city where 43 students disappeared and disarmed the entire municipal police force after gang-linked officers shot at the aspiring teachers.
Monte Alejandro Rubido Garcia, the national security commissioner, said the Iguala police officers will be sent to a military base to undergo evaluations while investigators check whether their guns were used in any crimes.
The federal police’s new paramilitary-like gendarmerie took over public safety in the city while the army will guard Iguala’s entrances in the violence-plagued southern state of Guerrero, he said.
Rubido said federal authorities will “shine light on the criminal events in the Iguala area” as well as contribute to the search for the missing students.
The move came after the weekend discovery of a mass grave containing 28 unidentified bodies outside Iguala, where the students were last seen more than a week ago.
Authorities say it will take at least two weeks to get the results of DNA tests to identify the corpses found about 200 kilometres south of Mexico City.
Some were in pieces after being set on fire in a bed of branches.
Witnesses say several students, who are from a teacher training college known as a hotbed of radical protests, were whisked away in police vehicles on the night of September 26 after officers shot at buses the youngsters had commandeered to return home.
Prosecutors say the Guerreros Unidos drug gang participated in the night of violence that left six people dead, 25 wounded and 43 missing.
Two gang hitmen linked to Iguala’s municipal police force have confessed to killing 17 of the 43 students in the same Pueblo Viejo district where the clandestine grave was found, authorities say.
But authorities say they are treating all 43 as missing until the identities of the bodies are confirmed.
The federal takeover came after President Enrique Pena Nieto vowed to punish those responsible for the mass disappearance.