New protest in Mexico for 43 missing students

Protesters and members of Amnesty International hold photographs of missing students outside the building of the office of Mexico's Attorney-General, during a protest supporting the Ayotzinapa Teacher Training College missing students, in Mexico City
Protesters and members of Amnesty International hold photographs of missing students outside the building of the office of Mexico's Attorney-General, during a protest supporting the Ayotzinapa Teacher Training College missing students, in Mexico City Oct 9, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

ACAPULCO, Mexico (AFP) - Thousands of protesters marched in Acapulco on Friday to demand the safe return of 43 students who went missing in southern Mexico after an attack by gang-linked police last month.

Chanting "they took them alive, we want them back alive," the students, teachers and machete-wielding farmers also called for the resignation of Guerrero state Governor Angel Aguirre over his handling of the case.

"We are angry because this is not an isolated event. Many of us are parents and we see very ugly things in this country that we want to fight," said Magdalena Catalan, a 34-year-old teacher.

Many of the protesters wore masks in the latest demonstration over a mass disappearance that has caused national and international outrage.

Authorities expect as many as 35,000 protesters to converge in the Pacific resort over the course of the day. Around two-thirds of hotel reservations were canceled this weekend, the local chamber of commerce said.

"We are enraged against the government. It's going to be a month (since the disappearance) and we have seen nothing," said a farmer gripping a machete.

The US embassy issued an "emergency message" urging its citizens to stay away from the demonstration, warning that such protests "can turn confrontational and escalate into violence."

Radical students and teachers torched part of Guerrero's state government headquarters on Monday.

They have also threatened to seize all 81 municipal offices in Guerrero. They have taken over four so far. Acapulco's city hall was closed on Friday.

Authorities say police officers in the town of Iguala shot at buses carrying the students on Sept 26 and handed them over to counterparts in the neighboring town of Cocula.

The Cocula officers then handed the students to the Guerreros Unidos drug gang, prosecutors say.

Six people died, 25 were wounded and 43 students went missing that night. Some 50 people have been arrested, including 26 police officers from Iguala and 14 from Cocula.

The discovery of mass graves around Iguala has raised concerns about the students' fate. DNA tests showed they were not among 28 bodies found in one location, but remains from other pits are being analysed.

More than 1,200 federal police have been deployed to look for the students in several towns around Iguala by air, land and water.

Guerrero's state congress, meanwhile, impeached the fugitive mayor of Iguala, Jose Luis Abarca, who is being sought by authorities on organised crime charges along with his police chief.

Aguirre says one theory behind the students' disappearance is that Abarca ordered Iguala's police force to attack the students over fears they would disrupt a speech by his wife.