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Masaya, a city battling at the front lines of Nicaragua's heated anti-government protests, once again became the scene of fierce street combat Saturday, with at least one man dying of a bullet wound to the heart...

An anti-government demonstrator holds a makeshift mortar during protests in the town of Masaya (AFP/File / INTI OCON)

Masaya, a city battling at the front lines of Nicaragua's heated anti-government protests, once again became the scene of fierce street combat Saturday, with at least one man dying of a bullet wound to the heart, the head of a top rights group in the country said.

Firearm bursts rang out in the city home to 100,000 people, where riots that started midday were growing increasingly violent as masked demonstrators wielding homemade mortars and slingshots struggled to fend off armed security forces.

Alvaro Leiva, head of the Nicaraguan Association for the Protection of Human Rights (ANPDH), said at least one 60-year-old man had died after a bullet struck his heart.

Leiva said the gunman was a sniper -- implying a member of Ortega's security forces or government-backed vigilantes.

The mortal wound comes hours after the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH) had raised to 137 the death toll in the Central American country, where demonstrations demanding President Daniel Ortega's ouster have raged since April 18.

At least two people had died in violent protests overnight, the CENIDH told AFP, one in the northern city of Jinotega and another in Managua.

Leiva said the situation was growing increasingly grave "because we are talking about crossfire, not tear gas or rubber bullets."

"The situation in this moment in Nicaragua is a crisis," he said. "We are asking the world to pay attention to Masaya."

The city just outside of the capital -- known before for its tree-lined streets, traditional crafts and nearby volcano of the same name -- has taken on the appearance of a war zone.

Demonstrators, many of them young men, huddled Saturday behind barricades constructed from cobblestones, felled trees and sheet metal, the ground littered with broken glass and spikes to further guarantee no cars would pass.

"We are fighting here because of the massacre of many people, the death of many children," one protestor told AFP, saying he's been actively demonstrating in Masaya for 15 days.

"We will continue in the struggle."

- No political will -

The young man who died in Jinotega was killed during an armed attack on protesters who were guarding a road barricade intended to keep security forces back, according to student organizers.

"Paramilitaries linked to the government gunned down boys who were fighting in the streets for liberty and democracy," said a statement from the city's student movement, calling it "a night of terror."

In Managua, a young motorcyclist died from a bullet to the neck after two armed men aboard motorcycles chased and shot him, according to local press.  Read More...
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