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38 people killed in three areas as Nicaragua gripped in cris

Sheetal Sukhija - Wednesday 11th July, 2018

MATAGALPA, Nicaragua - In deadly anti-government protests that started in Nicaragua in April this year - the country is said to have witnessed its bloodiest day, with 38 deaths.

A local human rights group has claimed that the deadly clashes in three areas resulted in the deaths of 38 people.

The Nicaraguan Centre for Human Rights (Cenidh) has stated that 38 people were killed during clashes in three areas and that 31 of them were anti-government protesters, while four were police officers and three members of pro-government groups.

The reported deaths come as the country is facing clashes between the security forces and anti-government protesters, which have intensified over the last month.

A report in BBC Mundo quota Cenidh President Vilma Nunez as saying that 35 people had been killed in the towns of Diriamba and Jinotepe and three more in the northern province of Matagalpa.

Further, Nunez reportedly added that most of them had been killed in clashes between anti-government protesters manning roadblocks and police and pro-government groups attempting to clear the barricades.

The report pointed out that the Catholic Church, which has been acting as a mediator in stalled talks between the government and the protesters, has denounced the violence.

Rolando Alvarez, the bishop of the city of Matagalpa, said that the operation to remove the road blocks had been conducted "at the price of blood and death.”

According to reports, on Sunday, pro-government gangs moved into Diriamba and Jinotepe and broke into two churches where protesters had taken refuge.

In Diriamba, a Catholic Church delegation including Apostolic Nuncio Stanislaw Waldemar Sommertag, Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes and Bishop Silvio Báez was surrounded by government supporters as they tried to enter the San Sebastián basilica.

Further, Bishop Báez posted a tweet showing photos of a cut on his arm.

He said that he had been insulted by "an angry mob" which had hit him in the stomach.

After the attacks on two churches, Nicaragua's Bishops' Conference suspended the working groups set up to mediate in the crisis.

On Wednesday, anti-government groups have called for another protest march and a strike on Thursday.

Since the wave of protests against the government was triggered by changes to the social security system announced on April 18, over 300 people are reported to have been killed.

As the protests widened, they turned into demands that President Daniel Ortega - who was re-elected to a third consecutive term in office in 2016 - step down.

The government, which accuses the protesters of plotting a coup against the president, has blamed protesters of holding the country hostage by blocking roads and hampering trade and normal business.

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