Mexico sought 16 more military arrests over 43 missing students, president says

FILE PHOTO: Relatives of the 43 students from Ayotzinapa Teacher Training College march to demand justice for their loved ones, in Mexico City
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MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican prosecutors earlier this year requested more arrests of military officials as part of an investigation of the 2014 disappearance of 43 student teachers, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Thursday.

Sixteen new arrest warrants were sought in May by the attorney general's office, Lopez Obrador said during a regular press conference, showing an official letter outlining the request which he said had not previously been made public.

Addressed to the head of the Army, the letter said the 16 suspects had "presumably maintained ties with organized crime, and hence did not prevent the disappearance of the 43 students."

Last year a judge ordered the arrest of 83 officials over the case, including soldiers, police, and state personnel, one a high level prosecutor. Not all the arrests were subsequently carried out, and 21 warrants were withdrawn.

Lopez Obrador did not say how many arrests were made from the new warrants.

The attorney general's office did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The May arrest orders were made under new leadership at the body investigating the case, after the previous chair stepped down amid criticism.

Lopez Obrador took office in 2018 vowing to uncover the truth around the suspected abduction and massacre of the students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers' College.

Earlier this year, an international panel of experts looking into the case criticized active investigations, saying it had received incomplete information and that the Defense Ministry hid documents about who was involved.

It also said security forces were complicit in abducting the 43, and that Army, Navy, police and intelligence agencies knew, minute by minute, where the students were.

At the time, the Army said it had no comment. The Navy did not respond to a request for comment. Mexico's armed forces have long denied having information about the disappearances.

The remains of only three of the 43 students have so far been recovered and formally identified.

(Reporting by Mexico City Newsroom, Writing by Isabel Woodford; editing by Grant McCool)