The former mayor of Iguala in Mexico has been charged with the kidnapping of 43 students who are now feared dead. The students, all of whom were male, went missing from Iguala city on September 26th after staging protests against what they perceived to be an unfair recruitment process for teachers, which favoured inner-city applicants over rural ones.

According to the attorney general, the students’ buses were attacked by municipal police who were allegedly working with local drug cartel Guerrero Unidos upon instructions from former mayor José Luis Abarca, who feared that the students’ protest could disrupt a political event being held by his wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda Villa. Since the event, the country has been shaken by public outrage and violent protests.

Tomás Zerón, the head of criminal investigations at the federal prosecutor’s office, announced that arrest warrants for the abduction have been obtained against José Luis Abarca and the 44 others also implicated in the event that has drawn the world’s attention to the ingrained corruption at the heart of Mexico’s security crisis.

Abarca is already in prison facing murder charges dating back to 2013. His wife is also currently being held without charge in preventive detention owing to her connections with the Guerreros Unidos cartel. While both Abarca and Villa were arrested in November after spending two months as fugitives, this is the first time they have been formally linked with September’s upheaval.

Zerón confirmed that, so far, 97 people have been arrested in relation to the kidnapping. This number includes 36 municipal police officers, a number of security officials and numerous supposed members of the Guerreros Unidos cartel.

“There is no evidence in the investigation suggesting members of the army or any other federal government security institution, had any participation at all in the disappearance of the students,” Zerón told The Guardian.

Evidence gleaned from the investigation thus far suggests that the Guerreros Unidos cartel massacred the abducted students and burned their bodies in a rubbish tip. Bone fragments of one student have been identified among remains recovered and analysed by forensic scientists.