Bodies found in a pit in Mexico town where students vanished

Ayotzinapa Teacher Training College students demonstrating in downtown Chilpancingo, in the Mexican state of Guerrero, on Oct 3, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS 
Ayotzinapa Teacher Training College students demonstrating in downtown Chilpancingo, in the Mexican state of Guerrero, on Oct 3, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS 

ACAPULCO, Mexico (AFP) - Authorities uncovered on Saturday a pit containing a number of bodies on the outskirts of a southern Mexico town where 43 students disappeared after a deadly police shooting last week.

A Guerrero state police official at the scene of the discovery outside Iguala said authorities do not know if the bodies belong to the students because the identities could not be immediately confirmed.

"We combed the area and human remains were seen when digging began," the official said on condition of anonymity.

The 43 students disappeared last weekend after Iguala municipal officers shot at buses that the group had seized to return home near the state capital, Chilpancingo.

Three students were killed. Another three people died when police and suspected gang members shot at another bus carrying football players on the outskirts of town.

Witnesses told AFP that the officers took away several students in patrol cars after the shooting.

The officers are suspected of having links to criminal gangs, raising fears about the students' fate in a country where drug cartels often bury their victims in mass graves.

Guerrero state prosecutor Inaky Blanco confirmed to local media the discovery of a clandestine grave with an unknown number of unidentified bodies.

Another police official said the pit was found thanks to an anonymous phone tip.

Authorities have detained 22 Iguala officers over the shootings and arrest warrants for the town's mayor and security chief, both of whom have disappeared.

The United Nations has urged Mexican authorities to conduct an "effective and diligent" search for the missing, calling the case "one of the most terrible events of recent times."