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One student killed as Nicaragua church siege ends

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By Michael Daventry  with Reuters
One student killed as Nicaragua church siege ends

More than 200 students have been freed from a siege in a church in Nicaragua following a deal that Catholic bishops helped secure.

But at least one member of the group was killed after coming under fire from paramilitaries, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a human rights group.

A delegation of bishops negotiated the transfer to Managua's metropolitan cathedral, where they were receiving medical care.

One priest, Juan Domingo Gutierrez, said the church "always" supported the people and the community.

"We stand alongside the needy, especially in a crisis situation like this which the country is going through, in this difficult situation where the behaviour of authorities makes no sense to us," he said.

The students had been part of a protest demanding the resignation of President Daniel Ortega and became trapped in the Divine Mercy Catholic Church on Friday evening.

The mother told Reuters that the students spent the night crouched on the church floor fearing for their lives as gunmen fired shots that ricocheted inside the building.

Nearly 300 people have died in three months of clashes with forces loyal to President Ortega, in the bloodiest protests Nicaragua has seen since its civil war ended in 1990.

The current unrest began in April when Ortega proposed reducing pension benefits to ease budgetary pressures.

The plan was later dropped, but provoked violent clashes and calls for the president to step down.

A nationwide strike emptied streets on Friday as businesses shut their doors in response to civil society groups' calls for early elections.