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Siege on Students in Nicaraguan Church Ends


Demonstrators wearing traditional masks take part in a march called "Together we are a volcano" against Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega's government, in Managua, Nicaragua, July 12, 2018.

At least one person is dead and several others wounded in the wake of a siege on a Nicaraguan church where about 150 students, priests and journalists had taken shelter from an attack by paramilitary forces.

Church officials negotiated a release of the captives, who spent Friday night trapped under gunfire in Managua's Divine Mercy Catholic Church.

The students were then taken out of the church and transported to Managua Cathedral. Supporters lining the streets cheered as buses carrying the students passed by.

The overnight siege came after protests calling for the resignation of President Daniel Ortega on Thursday and a nationwide strike on Friday.

The Nicaraguan Bishops' Conference said a young man killed in the attack had been shot in the head in what it described as an assault by police and paramilitary forces.

Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, who visited the church along with a colleague, told reporters he had been told there were two dead and several wounded.

A Washington Post journalist tweeted a snapshot of the body of a victim inside the church. He was later allowed by the paramilitary forces to leave, as were a few injured protesters.

In Friday's nationwide strike, businesses closed their doors and streets emptied out. Some students from a protest camp at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua barricaded themselves into a university building while paramilitary fighters shot at them from outside, according to media reports. Several people were thought to have been injured.

The Catholic Church, which has been aiding in talks between the government and the protesters, has denounced the violence.

The protests, which have continued for months, are the deadliest in Nicaragua since the end of its civil war in 1990. They began in April after the government announced changes to the social security system. Since then, protesters have been calling for Ortega to step down from office. He was elected to a third term in 2016.

Ortega's administration accuses the protesters of trying to stage a coup.

Months of violence between the protesters and pro-government paramilitary forces has cost 300 lives.

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