MEXICO CITY - President Enrique Pena Nieto sought Monday to confront a growing human rights nightmare, declaring that his government would launch an investigation into reports that police had rounded up 43 student-teachers late last month, then worked with gangsters to have them killed and their bodies dumped in mass graves.
"Mexican society and relatives of these youth that lamentably are missing demand with every reason the clearing up of facts and the application of justice," Pena Nieto said.
The horrific massacre near Iguala in Mexico's southern state of Guerrero on the Pacific coast appears likely to become the worst slaughter by police or soldiers since Pena Nieto came to office in December 2012, pledging a savvier battle against drug cartels than that of his predecessor. It's the second time in just over three months that Mexican police or soldiers have been implicated in a mass execution.
Events in Iguala, about 115 miles southwest of Mexico City, began unfolding on the afternoon of Sept. 26. Scores of students from a regional teachers' college, a breeding ground for anarchic protest, commandeered buses and headed to Iguala to block roads.
Over the next half day, Guerrero state Attorney General Inaky Blanco Cabrera said, city police officers working with a drug-trafficking gang fired at the buses, killing six people and wounding 25. After receiving an order from the gang boss - known only by his alias, "El Chucky" - police rounded up 43 students and summoned gang hit men, he said.
On Sunday, he said, officials had recovered 28 bodies from a deep pit. The bodies had been burned with diesel or gasoline.
Authorities said they had taken DNA samples from relatives of the missing students and were trying to get matches with the recovered bodies but that the process might take weeks.