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Siege at Nicaraguan church leaves 2 dead

(Reuters/Oswaldo Rivas)Demonstrators burn the Sandinista radio station during clashes with riot police during a protest against Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega's government in Managua, May 30.

Two people were reportedly killed in Nicaragua following a day-long siege at a church, where an estimated 30 opposition supporters took refuge after coming under attack from riot police.

The opposition supporters, who were protesting welfare and pension cuts, had gone inside the San Miguel Church in Masaya to avoid the attacks from riot police. Two people have died among the ranks of the protesters.

Apart from the riot police, the critics of the government were also reportedly assaulted by pro-government militias, according to La Croix International.

The siege reportedly ended after the intervention of local priest Fr. Edwing Roman and human rights lawyer Dr. Alvaro Leiva.

Monsignor Silvio Jose Báez, the Auxiliary Bishop of Managua, commended the two men for their role in ending the siege.

"Free detainees in Masaya thanks to the good offices of Fr. Edwin Roman and Dr. Alvaro Leiva. Now in the parish house of the San Miguel parish, the injured continue to be attended to," Báez said in a tweet on June 2, as reported by Catholic News Agency.

Doctors were allowed to treat the wounded inside the church before the protesters were released.

Masaya, which is located about 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of Managua, was only one of several cities where conflict broke out between the police and protesters on Saturday, according to St. Kitts & Nevis Observer.

The protests in Nicaragua were reportedly prompted by the government's decision to cut social security and pensions in April.

President Daniel Ortega, who signed the bill into law, has since rescinded the measure, but the unrest escalated after security forces killed more than 40 protesters.

The opposition is now demanding the resignation of Ortega, who reportedly won his third term in 2016 after a constitutional amendment allowed him to run again.

The riots have claimed the lives of 76 people and injured 868, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which documented human rights violations in four Nicaraguan cities between May 17 and 21.

On Sunday, Pope Francis expressed grief for those who died in the riots and called for a peaceful dialogue.

"I join my brother bishops of Nicaragua in expressing sorrow for the serious violence, with dead and wounded, carried out by armed groups to repress social protests," Francis said after the June 3 Angelus, as reported by Catholic News Agency.

"I pray for the victims and their families. The Church is always for dialogue, but this requires an active commitment to respect freedom and above all life. I pray that all violence should cease and the conditions for the resumption of dialogue [come] as soon as possible," he added.

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