MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican police arrested one of the senior police officers accused of involvement in the disappearance of a group of 43 student teachers last year, the country's interior ministry said on Thursday.
Francisco Salgado, 41, was the deputy head of the police in the southwestern city of Iguala, where 43 student teachers went missing in September last year. The government says the group was detained by corrupt police officers who handed them over to a local drug gang that killed them and then incinerated their bodies.
The incident shocked Mexico, sparking nationwide protests, and plunged Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto into his deepest crisis since taking office in 2012.
In a statement, Mexico's interior ministry said Salgado was captured in the central Mexican city of Cuernavaca, carrying AK-47 cartridges.
Statements from police in Iguala and the nearby town of Cocula alleged that on the night of Sept. 26, Salgado had ordered that roughly 13 of the student teachers should be handed over to members of the drug gang, the interior ministry said.
Witness statements also alleged that Salgado received 600,000 pesos ($39,187) a month from the drug gang in return for protection, the ministry said. Since his disappearance, the ministry said he had been hiding in residences belonging to family members.
In November, Mexican authorities captured Jose Luis Abarca, who was at the time of the incident mayor of Iguala, and his wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda, in Mexico City. Abarca has since been charged with the kidnapping of the students.
(Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz and Anahi Rama; Writing by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Alex Richardson)