A dramatic video has emerged on social media of besieged anti-government student protesters in Nicaragua’s capital Managua pleading for their lives as gunfire is heard in the background.
The images streamed live on Facebook on Friday – a day of a nationwide strike – showed the students taking cover in the campus of the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN) and pleading to loved ones. The feed then abruptly ended.
Another video circulating on social media showed several masked individuals in plain clothes and flack jackets firing high-caliber weapons from behind a barricade at the area where students were taking cover at the university.
The videos come as rights groups say more than 270 people have been killed in clashes between pro-government forces and demonstrators over the last three months in the deadliest protests in Nicaragua since its civil war ended in 1990.
According to Al Jazeera’s Mariana Sanchez, reporting from Managua, at least three people were taken away from the UNAN campus on Friday in a Red Cross ambulance thanks to a negotiation conducted by clergy.
“We understand that still there are students in there and the paramilitary has the area surrounded,” she said late on Friday.
“What we are hearing is that the clergy will continue negotiations to help these students leave the premises of this university,” she added.
A young person who was at a nearby the church told reporters: “They all came with firearms, they came to kill.”
Meanwhile, in Masaya, a town south of the capital, clashes intensified, with reports that at least two people had been killed.
“We’ve seen the images of dozens of policemen running around Monimbo, a neighbourhood in Masaya, carrying high-caliber weapons, RPGs and shooting. We understand that two people have been killed there,” Al Jazeera’s Sanchez reported.
The violence came soon after President Daniel Ortega left Masaya following a traditional march in the legendary revolutionary stronghold.
“After he left Masaya, all these policemen stayed behind and that’s when all these shootings started in the same place where he had just been talking about peace and reconciliation,” Sanchez said.
Political tensions have soared since protests against a now-aborted pension reform began in mid-April and have since mushroomed into general opposition to Ortega and his government.
Ortega has lamented the crisis and called for dialogue with his opponents, but protesters accuse the president of establishing a dictatorship that is characterised by nepotism and brutal repression.
Last week, Ortega ruled out early elections – a key demand of the protesters – saying they would violate the constitution.
Protesters and their supporters also held a nationwide strike on Friday, the second in the three months of anti-government demonstrations.
Opposition supporters said the strike was 90 percent respected across the country with banks, markets, gas stations, schools and shops closed among deserted streets. But official media announced business as usual in several trade zones.
Friday’s strike, called by the opposition Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy group, came after four police officers and a protester died on Thursday as clashes erupted between opposition activists and government forces and their paramilitary allies in the southeast town of Morrito.