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Panel Rejects Mexican Government's Probe of Missing Students

FILE -Relatives of the 43 missing students from the Isidro Burgos rural teachers college march holding pictures of their missing loved ones during a protest in Mexico City, July 26, 2015.

International experts reviewing the Mexican government's probe of the 2014 abduction and disappearance of 43 students have rejected the government's official narrative, accusing investigators of mishandling evidence and relying solely on statements from suspects.

A more than 400-page analysis was released Sunday by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights - the autonomous rights arm of the Organization of American States. It does not speculate on the ultimate fate of the missing students, who disappeared one year ago in southern Mexico's Guerrero state.

But it says there is no evidence supporting the government's central claim that the students were captured by local police and turned over to drug cartel assassins after commandeering buses for transportation to a protest.

Under that theory -- first presented late last year by Mexico's former attorney general -- the bodies of the students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers College were dumped at a trash site and incinerated outside a nearby town.

Sunday's report said the dump fire was not strong enough to burn the victims to ashes, and it said investigators from Chile, Colombia, Guatemala and Spain based that finding on independent expert analysis.

The government had not commented on the report by late Sunday.

The document says the students may have unwittingly hijacked a bus full of drugs or drug money that corrupt police were seeking to recover. It also says police and federal military units were tracking the movement of the students before they disappeared, while stressing that much of what occurred on September 26, 2014 remains unknown.

The report details missing evidence that includes a bus seen on security camera footage on the night of the disappearances. It also notes U.S. evidence that a drug gang in Guerrero state transports heroin to the United States in secret bus compartments.

The government's failure to account for all but one of the students or to impress the Mexican public with the thoroughness of the probe has rattled the presidency of Enrique Pena Nieto and sparked widespread international criticism.

Human rights activists and parents of the students continue to voice outrage that the investigation has been based on the testimony of more than 100 people arrested on suspicion of involvement in the disappearances. The detainees include the former mayor of the town of Iguala.

Government critics also allege that many of the detainees gave statements to police only after undergoing torture.