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Mexican cartel members confess to gruesome killings of missing 43 students

Authorities in Mexico said on Friday the suspects in the disappearance of 43 college students have described a macabre and complicated mass murder and incineration of the victims carried out over an entire day and ending with their ashen remains being dumped into a river.

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In a somber, lengthy explanation of the investigation, Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam played video showing hundreds of charred fragments of bone and teeth fished from the river and its banks.

 “I am angry, sad and Mexican society is too,” said Murillo Karam, who delivered the news in a meeting with relatives of the missing in an airport hangar in Chilpancingo, capital of the violence-plagued southern state of Guerrero.

Murillo Karam said it will be very difficult to extract DNA to confirm that they are the students missing since September 26 after an attack by police in the southern state of Guerrero.

Some 74 people have been detained so far in a case that prosecutors have said started when police, under orders of the mayor and working with a drug gang, opened fire on students in the city of Iguala, where they were collecting donations and had commandeered public buses.

Six people were killed in two confrontations before the 43 were taken away and handed over to members of the Guerreros Unidos cartel.

Murillo Karam said authorities are searching for more suspects.

In the most comprehensive accounting to date of the disappearances and the subsequent investigation, Murillo Karam showed videotaped confessions by those who testified to loading the students in dump trucks and carrying them to a landfill site in Cocula, a city near Iguala.  

Some 15 of the students were already dead when they arrived at the site and the rest were shot, according to the suspects.

They then built an enormous funeral pyre that burned from midnight until 2 or 3 p.m. along the River San Juan in Cocula.

“They assigned guards in shifts to make sure the fire lasted for hours, throwing diesel, petrol, tyres, wood and plastic,” Murillo Karam said.

The suspects even burned their own clothes to destroy evidence, they said.

It was about 5:30 p.m. when the ashes had cooled enough to be handled.

Those who disposed of the bodies were told to break up the burned bones, place them in black plastic rubbish bags and empty them into the river.

Murillo Karam said the teeth were so badly charred that they practically dissolved into dust at the touch.

Earlier on Friday, he told relatives of the missing students that authorities believe their children are these charred remains, but have no DNA confirmation.

Murillo Karam also confirmed at the news conference that human remains found in mass graves discovered after the students went missing did not include any of the 43 young men enrolled at a radical rural teachers college.

Those graves held women and men believed to have been killed in August, he said.

An earlier Reuters article reported Murillo Karam as saying the suspects had ‘admitted setting fire to the group, some of whom were still alive’. This is now unclear.

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