Radical students in southern Mexico hijacked a fuel tanker truck and two buses Wednesday and later kidnapped four police officers to demand the release of about 10 students arrested over the vehicle thefts. The events marked the latest chapter of violence at a rural teachers college where 43 students were kidnapped in 2014 and remain missing.
Students at the college have staged bus hijackings for years, and apparently stole the fuel tank Wednesday to gas up a fleet of hijacked passenger buses they are holding on the campus. Roberto Alvarez, security spokesman for Guerrero state, said in a statement that the students took the tanker truck with almost 8,000 gallons (30,000 liters) of gasoline back to their campus. They also hijacked several delivery trucks carrying food products.
Police blocked their path and forced them to abandon two hijacked passenger buses. He said the students apparently were trying to ram the buses into a police checkpoint. Police arrested 10 students. But other students later went to the nearby town of Tixtla and kidnapped four local policemen to demand the release of those arrested. They also took a police patrol vehicle.
Alvarez said the arrested students were let go in exchange for the release of the four kidnapped officers. “Talks are continuing (with the students) to get them to turn over the fuel tanker and the other trucks,” he said.
A statement released by the committee of parents of the disappeared students claimed that police opened fire on the hijacked buses, calling that “an excessive use of force.” “We condemn the brutal aggression against our youths, and demand an end to the repression,” the committee wrote.
Alvarez said there was no evidence police opened fire, but that the claims would be investigated. The teachers college in Ayotzinapa espouses socialist education and its students have long hijacked vehicles, fuel and food delivery trucks and taken over toll booths to finance their political movement and recruit students.
It was during one such outing in hijacked buses in 2014 that local police in the nearby city of Iguala intercepted several busloads of students on Sept. 26, 2014, and turned 43 of the young people over to a local drug cartel. Federal prosecutors say the cartel killed the students and burned their bodies, but tests on charred bone fragments have positively identified only one student.
The student violence came one day after the discovery of the bodies of two men and two youths who were apparently lined up against a wall and shot in another part of Guerrero state. Alvarez said two of the victims appeared to be between 15 and 20 years old. The other two were slightly older. Alvarez said a motive for the killings was under investigation.
The bodies were found Tuesday under an overpass on a highway in the township of Coyuca, which is just northwest of Acapulco.