Mexican officials said police have captured a fugitive former mayor and his wife who the government says were the probable masterminds behind the abduction of 43 students feared to have been massacred in September, reported Reuters on Tuesday.
Police working with a local drug gang in the south-western city of Iguala abducted the students after clashes there on the night of 26 September, sparking a huge manhunt and embarrassment for President Enrique Pena Nieto.
Jose Luis Abarca, who at the time was mayor of Iguala, and his wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda, were captured in Mexico City, Jose Ramon Salinas, a spokesman for the federal police, said on his Twitter account. A government official said the pair were caught early on Tuesday and were being questioned by prosecutors.
The couple was arrested by federal security forces in a house in the eastern district of Iztapalapa, Mexican media reported, one of the most violent parts of the capital where they had been hiding out for several weeks.
A government official said more details would be released later on Tuesday.
The government is still searching for the students, whose disappearance shocked the country and undermined Pena Nieto’s claims that Mexico has become safer on his watch.
The Mexican government said last month that Abarca and his wife had ordered local police to stop a group of about 80 students from disrupting a political event on the night of 26 September.
Six people, including three students, died in the ensuing clashes in the violent state of Guerrero. Shortly afterward, the mayor and his wife Pineda went underground. The government says Pineda comes from a family of high-profile drug traffickers.
Investigators said the police handed over the students to a local drug gang, Guerreros Unidos, who many officials suspect of killing the youths.
Despite dozens of arrests and the discovery of the remains of at least 38 bodies buried in the hills near Iguala, it remained unclear what happened to the students, who belonged to a radical leftist all-male college in Guerrero and were studying to be teachers.
According to the testimony of a captured gangster that was made public by the attorney general’s office, Pineda was the boss of Guerreros Unidos within the Iguala government.