IGUALA, Mexico (TheBlaze/AP) — A clandestine grave site with multiple burial pits holding an undetermined number of bodies was found outside a town where violence last weekend resulted in six deaths and the disappearance of 43 students, Mexican officials said Saturday.
The grave site was on the outskirts of Iguala, a town about 120 miles south of Mexico City, Guerrero State Prosecutor Inaky Blanco said. He did not give any details on the number of bodies or say whether there was any indication of whether any of the remains could be some of the missing students.
Juan Lopez Villanueva, an official with the Mexican government's National Human Rights Commission, said later that six burial pits had been uncovered. He also did not comment on whether the remains could be the missing students.
The clandestine grave was on a hillside in rugged territory of Iguala's poor Pueblo Viejo district and was heavily guarded by soldiers, marines and federal and state police who kept journalists away from the site. A helicopter landed inside the cordoned-off area at midafternoon.
A Mexican marine and a policeman guard the site where authorities on Oct. 4, 2014, unearthed unmarked graves containing a number of bodies on the outskirts of Iguala, a southern Mexico town where 43 students disappeared after a deadly police shooting last week. (AFP/Jesus Guerreo/Getty Images)
Iguala was rocked by a series of clashes and shootings late Sept. 27 and early the next day.
State prosecutors have said the first bloodshed occurred when city police shot at buses that had been hijacked by protesting students from a teachers college. Three youths were killed and 25 people had wounds.
A few hours later, unidentified masked men fired shots at two taxis and a bus carrying a soccer team on the main highway, killing two people on the bus and one in a taxi.
After the violence, Guerrero state authorities said 57 students had been reported missing since the protesters' confrontation with police. That number was later reduced to 43.
Blanco has said local police are being investigated for roles in the disappearance. He said state investigators had obtained videos showing that local police arrested an undetermined number of students after the first incident and took them away.
Officials say 22 officers are facing homicide charges.
Guerrero Gov. Angel Aguirre has said investigators are also looking at possible involvement of organized crime groups, which he charged have infiltrated the town government.
Vidulfo Rosales, a lawyer for a local human rights group who is assisting the families of the missing students, said before the burial pit was found that relatives believed the youths had been turned over to a drug gang by police. Rosales said some students who escaped the shooting said they saw other students being carried away in several police pickup trucks.
"The suspicion, the hypothesis, is that they are being held by organized crime gangs that operated in collusion with the police," Rosales said.
Violence is frequent in Guerrero, a southern state where poverty feeds social unrest and drug gangs clash over territory.
The Aytozinapa Normal school attended by the missing students, like many other schools in Mexico's "rural teachers college" system, is known for militant and radical protests that often involve hijacking buses and delivery trucks.
Here's a Reuters report that preceded the discovery of the mass grave: