October 20, 2015 / 11:59 PM / 2 years ago

Mexico to use drones in new search for missing students

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's government will mount a new search in tandem with international experts for the remains of dozens of students training to be teachers who were abducted and apparently massacred a year ago, bowing to widespread domestic and international pressure.

The plan, which includes a new investigations team and the use of drones and satellite technology, could help President Enrique Pena Nieto restore public trust in his government's ability to act against corruption and a perceived culture of impunity.

Mexico government says that 43 students were abducted by corrupt municipal police, and then handed over to be massacred by a local drug gang that believed the students had links to a rival outfit in the crime-racked, impoverished state of Guerrero.

Forensic experts have already identified the remains of one of the group from a bone fragment, and have identified a possible match for a second victim.

But an international team of experts reviewing the case last month questioned the government account of how the gang members incinerated the students' remains, ground up the charred bodies, and then dumped the ashes in a river, arguing its investigation was sloppy and full of holes.

"There will be a new task force that will relaunch the investigation," Eber Betanzos, Mexico's deputy attorney general for human rights, said in Washington at a meeting of the experts looking into the case.

The government signed an agreement with the experts, from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, to use satellite technology and land and water drones to look for the students and any hidden graves.

However, the government still insists outside experts cannot directly question military personnel who were on duty the night of the disappearance in September 2014, and who were told not to interfere while the students were attacked by local police.

Writing by Anna Yukhananov; Editing by Simon Gardner and Lisa Shumaker

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