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Pro-Ortega supporters invade basilica and harass bishops

AFP  |  Diriamba (Nicaragua) 

Hundreds of supporters of under-pressure Nicaraguan broke into a basilica in an opposition heartland and harassed Roman Catholic bishops at the heart of a mediation process.

The attack yesterday came a day after at least 14 people died in a raid by a pro-government mob in the areas of Diriamba and Jinotepe, 20 km from the opposition bastion of Masaya, in the Central American country's southeast.

Prior to yesterday's invasion of the Diriamba basilica, dozens of chanting government supporters, some hurling insults, blocked a church convoy heading there with Cardinal and

"Murderers," "liars" and "sons of bitches" were among the barbs flung the church convoy's way, while others government supporters shouted: "We want peace" and "no more roadblocks." Protesters in the area had barricaded roads to keep out police.

The influential has been mediating between and the opposition to end three months of unrest that has left more than 240 people dead.

Protesters want the resignation of Ortega, whom they accuse of authoritarianism.

Church leaders were surrounded upon arriving at the and struggled to enter the building.

They had come from the capital to help liberate a group of people, including volunteer medics, trapped inside the basilica since Sunday's violence and surrounded by pro-government supporters.

"We don't have weapons, the weapon here is prayer," a medic told AFP from inside the basilica. "They were attacking us from outside." Not only church leaders and medics came under attack. An in Diriamba was struck and robbed of his equipment.

"It was horrible, they took his mobile phone and robbed him of everything," said

The 100 per cent Noticias (100 Percent News), Miguel Mora, said their journalists were also assaulted and had their equipment stolen while covering the church delegation's arrival.

Ortega, a former leftist guerrilla, first came to power through a popular uprising in 1979 before losing a in 1990.

He was re-elected in 2007 but opponents have accused him -- together with his wife Vice -- of establishing a dictatorship characterised by nepotism and brutal repression.

After Sunday's violence, Catholic bishops questioned the utility of continuing mediation efforts.

"What sense does it make to continue with the dialogue if the streets continue to be filled with blood," Brenes said.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, July 10 2018. 02:25 IST