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A drug gang implicated in the disappearance of 43 students in Iguala basically ran the town, paying the mayor hundreds of thousands of dollars a month out of the profits from their drug operations, authorities said Wednesday.

Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam said Iguala's mayor Jose Luis Abarca ordered municipal police to detain the protesting students - who attended a radical teachers college - so they would not disrupt an upcoming speech by his wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda. The students were then turned over to the Guerreros Unidos drug gang.

Abarca, his wife and the Iguala police chief are all fugitives. A total of 52 people, including police officers, Iguala officials and gang members, have been arrested in the case.

Casarrubias, the arrested drug gang leader told authorities the Mayor's wife was "the main operator of criminal activities" in Iguala. He also said the mayor received about $150,000-$220,000 every few weeks for himself and to pay off the police force.

The youths were taken to a police station and then to the nearby town of Cocula. At some point they were loaded aboard a dump truck and taken - apparently still alive - to an area on the outskirts of Iguala where the mass graves have been found, said Murillo Karam.

Demonstrators listen to a speech delivered by the father of one of the 43 missing students of the Ayotzinapa teachers' training college, during a protest at Zocalo square in Mexico City October 22, 2014. A Mexican mayor and his wife were "probable masterminds" behind the disappearance of 43 student teachers last month in the restive southwest, the country's attorney general said on Wednesday.TOMAS BRAVO / Reuters