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least one person is dead and others are wounded on Sunday after armed pro-government supporters in Nicaragua fired on student protesters who were forced to seek refuge in a church. A delegation of Catholic bishops on Saturday secured the release of dozens of young protesters trapped overnight inside the church under a hail of bullets from gunmen loyal to Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega prompting fresh criticism of a violent crackdown against opposition to his rule.
Nearly three months of clashes between pro-Ortega forces and demonstrators calling for his ouster have claimed almost 300 lives in the bloodiest protest in Nicaragua since the country's civil war ended in 1990. The mother of a protester who was holed up in a church told Reuters that the students spent the night crouched on the floor fearing for their lives as the gun men fired shots that ricochet inside the church.
Nicaragua has been gripped by unrest since April when Ortega, a former Marxist guerrila leader, proposed reducing pension benefits to ease budgetary pressures. Even though the plan was later dropped, it provoked violent clashes and calls for Ortega to step down. A nationwide strike emptied streets on Friday and businesses shut their doors heeding calls by civil society groups who want Ortega to resign and stage early elections.