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Mexico Confirms Missing Students Murdered by Drug Gang

FILE - Demonstrators carry photos of the 43 missing trainee teachers as a boy waves a Mexican flag, with its green and red parts replaced with black as a sign of mourning, during a march in support of the students in Mexico City, Dec. 6, 2014.

The Mexican government says it is now a matter of "historical truth" that 43 college students who have been missing since last September were murdered by drug traffickers who believed they were members of a rival gang.

Attorney General Jesus Murillo told reporters Monday investigators were now certain the students, all men, were abducted by corrupt police officers in southern Guerrero state and handed over to members of Guerreros Unidos. He said the gang took the students to a garbage dump and killed them, then burned the bodies and dumped the remains in a nearby river.

The bodies were so thoroughly burned, however, that only one of the missing students has been positively identified. Murillo said investigators reached their conclusions based on forensic evidence collected from the crime scene, as well as statements from a number of witnesses, including a confession by a member of Guerreros Unidos arrested nearly two weeks ago.

Dozens of people have been arrested in the case, including Jose Luis Abarca, the mayor of the city of Iguala, where the students disappeared. Authorities believe Abarca and his wife ordered police to abduct the students.

The disappearance of the students led to massive street protests across Mexico against President Enrique Pena Nieto, accusing him of failing to address the country's chronic crime and insecurity problems.