A witness to the disappearance of 43 Mexican student teachers has alleged that soldiers were involved in the 2014 attack , the country’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has confirmed.

The disappearance of the trainees from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College on 26 September 2014 rocked Mexico, sparking widespread protests and calls for justice, but the investigation into the case has been widely criticized.

This week the newspaper Reforma reported that a witness, known as “Juan”, had testified that soldiers detained a group of the students, interrogated them at the army base in the town of Iguala and then handed them to a drug gang.

The former defense minister Salvador Cienfuegos, recently arrested on US drug charges that were later dropped, long refused to allow investigators access to soldiers at the base for questioning over their possible involvement in the massacre.

The witness said members of the Guerreros Unidos gang cut up some of the students with machetes and took their remains to a crematorium controlled by the gang, while others were dissolved in acid, Reforma reported.

Evidence was sown at a rubbish dump, the witness said, to support a narrative being pushed by the federal government at the time.

The witness’ testimony is included in the attorney general office’s investigation of the case.

López Obrador confirmed on Thursday that Reforma’s reporting reflected the testimony in the investigation.

“What Reforma published is in the prosecutor’s file. I don’t know how they got it, but it’s real,” said López Obrador. He cautioned that the accusations were based on only one witness.

“We can’t say that this is what happened,” he added during a regular news conference.

The witness said military commanders and police took bribes from Guerreros Unidos. His testimony also implicated Mexico City’s police chief, who recently survived an assassination attempt.

The chief, Omar García Harfuch, at the time worked in Guerrero. On Thursday he “categorically denied” the allegations, saying he had nothing to hide.

Lawyers for the students’ relatives expressed concern the investigation could be compromised by the leak of witness testimony.



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