Mexican authorities arrested on Friday the fugitive former police chief of the city where 43 students disappeared after officers abducted them in 2014, raising hopes of a breakthrough in the case.
Following a months-long investigation, federal police detained Felipe Flores Velazquez, 58, as he left a house in Iguala after visiting his wife, said National Security Commissioner Renato Sales.
While Flores was finally caught in Iguala, where the mass disappearance occurred more than two years ago, Sales said "he was not always" in the city.
"He is accused of the crimes of organized crime and kidnapping of the young men," he said.
Flores` arrest may offer new clues about the fate of the students in a case that has bedeviled President Enrique Pena Nieto`s administration for more than two years.
Pena Nieto`s government has faced criticism over its handling of the tragedy, with thousands of protesters demanding his resignation on the second anniversary of the mass disappearance in September.
Attorney General Arely Gomez wrote on Twitter that the arrest will allow investigators to get from Flores "a fundamental statement to clear up the events of Iguala."Flores, who was Iguala`s police chief at the time, was one of the people "responsible for coordinating the operation" that resulted in officers attacking the students on September 26, 2014, Sales said.
Flores acted under the "notoriously illegal instruction" of then mayor Jose Luis Abarca to attack the students as they headed toward a square where Abarca`s wife was giving a speech, the official said. Six people were gunned down that night.
The trainee teachers were in buses they had commandeered to travel to a protest in Mexico City -- a common practice among the students from a radical college in southern Guerrero state.
Prosecutors have said the police officers delivered the 43 students to the Guerreros Unidos drug cartel, which killed them, incinerated their bodies at a garbage dump and tossed the remains in a river.
But the government`s conclusions were rejected by independent experts from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, who said there was no scientific proof that the students were burned at the dump.
The remains of only one student have been identified.
The attorney general`s office has since agreed to look at other lines of investigation and conduct new searches to find the students.
Sales said 131 people have now been arrested, including Abarca and his wife, several police officers and alleged members of the Guerreros Unidos.The attorney general`s office had offered a $135,000 reward for Flores` arrest.
The Inter-American commission experts said in a report that even though Flores had given investigators inconsistent testimony following the mass disappearance, "his arrest was not ordered until much later, which allowed him to flee."
Felipe de la Cruz, a spokesman for the parents of the 43 students, voiced hope that the arrest would yield results.
The families took the news "with calm because we don`t believe much in the work of the attorney general`s office."
But, he added, "we hope that this person says in his statement what really happened, where the youths are.