Mexico Seeks Second DNA Test to Identify Missing Students

Mexico asked Innsbruck Medical University scientists to retest human remains recovered in the country’s south after a first round of DNA analysis failed to determine whether they belonged to more than 40 students missing since September.

The remains, which were examined in Mexico before being sent to Austria, were too heat-damaged to be identified, prompting authorities to ask for a second study that may take three months, the attorney general’s office said in a statement today. One of the 43 missing students was identified last year.

President Enrique Pena Nieto’s administration sent the burnt remains to the lab for identification after saying the students were murdered and their bodies incinerated by a criminal gang working with local police. The mass disappearance from the city of Iguala, less than three hours’ drive from Mexico City, has sparked protests nationwide and become a symbol for how drug-related violence has undermined law and order.

Saying there’s no proof their children were killed, some parents of the missing students from a rural teachers college in Ayotzinapa, Mexico, are demanding they be returned alive. Epifanio Alvarez, 45, father of 19-year-old missing student Jorge Alvarez, said he hadn’t heard about the government’s statement today until a reporter called him.

The press release about a lack of DNA results “makes us believe even less in what the government is saying,” Alvarez said in a phone interview from Ayotzinapa. “We’ll keep looking for our students.”

Bone Fragments

The Institute of Legal Medicine at Innsbruck Medical University did not respond to requests for comment placed by telephone and e-mail. An Argentine forensic team working on the missing students case declined to comment.

Mexico has identified the remains of one of the 43 missing students, 21-year-old Alexander Mora, using bone fragments collected where the Guerreros Unidos drug gang allegedly dumped them, Attorney General Jesus Murillo said last month. Some Mexican scientists have questioned his explanation of how the bodies were burned.

Mexican and Argentine forensic experts concluded that other remains from mass graves around Iguala, the city where the students disappeared on Sept. 26, didn’t belong to the students.

The government has detained almost 100 people connected with the case, Murillo’s office said last week. Those captured include former Iguala Mayor Jose Luis Abarca, his wife, and an alleged hitman accused by authorities of participating in the murder of the students.

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