Mexico exhumes independence heroes

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The remains of 12 Mexican independence leaders have been exhumed in a solemn military ceremony led by President Felipe Calderon.

Bands played and crowds threw white flowers as the bones were paraded through Mexico City in glass caskets.

The crypts were opened as part of celebrations to mark 200 years since the start of Mexico's war of independence from Spain.

The bones will be studied to determine their authenticity.

"Today we pay tribute to those who sacrificed their lives for Mexico, to bring us freedom and independence in our land," President Calderon said.

Hundreds of soldiers in ceremonial regalia, some on horseback, escorted the bones from their crypts under the landmark Angel of Independence monument to the historic Chapultepec Castle, which is now a museum.

Father of the nation

A temporary laboratory has been set up there to examine the bones and confirm their identities, as well as to ensure their conservation.

When the research is complete, they will be transferred in another military ceremony to the National Palace in the heart of Mexico City.

The BBC's Inma Gil Rosendo in Mexico City says there was great emotion among the crowds watching the parade.

The remains are thought to include the bones of Miguel Hidalgo, a priest regarded as the father of the Mexican nation.

Hidalgo launched the war of independence in 1810 by leading peasants under the banner of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mexico's patron saint.

He was executed by firing squad a year later, and his decapitated body was displayed for a month as a warning to other revolutionaries.

The other bones are thought to belong to heroes including Jose Maria Morelos and Vicente Guerrero.

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