Gildardo Lopez Astudillo
Suspected cartel boss Gildardo Lopez Astudillo has been arrested in Guerrero province, MexicoHandout

Mexican authorities arrested a cartel chief who they claim ordered the kidnapping and murder of 43 students last year in Iguala, Guerrero state.

Prosecutors claim that Gildardo Lopez Astudillo, known as El Gil, is a leader of the Guerreros Unidos drugs cartel, which the lawyers say was handed the students by corrupt police officers and murdered them. He was arrested in the city of Taxco and is also suspected of drugs, organised crime and extortion offences, said state prosecutor Miguel Angel Godinez Munoz.

On Wednesday 16 September the remains of a second student were identified. Austrian experts carried out tests on the remains, which were found in a rubbish dump outside Iguala.

The students from an agricultural college were allegedly kidnapped on 26 September, 2014, while returning from a protest. The Mexican attorney general's office claims that the cartel believed the students were members of a rival gang and executed them. In November, former attorney general Jesus Murillo Karam said that Lopez Astudillo had told a cartel superior that a rival gang was encroaching on his turf, and had been told to take action.

Authorities claim that the bodies of the students were burnt in a rubbish dump. However, independent investigators have claimed the official account is flawed, and said evidence does not support the claim that the bodies were burnt as the force of the blaze necessary to incinerate the remains would have also burnt down nearby vegetation and been visible in the surrounding area.

No fires were reported in the area at the time of the killings. Relatives of the students allege the involvement of high ranking military officials in the disappearances.