Rights group: At least 10 shot dead in Nicaragua violence

At least 10 people were shot dead in Nicaragua as police and paramilitary groups attacked roadblocks set up by anti-government demonstrators demanding President Daniel Ortega's exit from office, a rights group said.

Alvaro Leiva, director of the Nicaraguan Pro-Human Rights Association, said more than 20 were also wounded in Sunday's violence in several cities south of Managua, the capital.

In the Monimbo neighborhood of Masaya, "the attacks have not ceased and the city is closed," Leiva said. "Nobody can get in or out."

In the municipality of Nindiri, on the outskirts of Masaya, Roman Catholic Bishop Abelardo Mata of the Esteli archdiocese was attacked as he was traveling in a car to a funeral.

Roberto Petray, a friend of the priest, told the news channel 100% Noticias that Mata was forced from the vehicle by assailants who broke its windows and punctured its tires.

Images broadcast by the channel showed supporters of Ortega's Sandinista Front movement during the incident.

"The bishops support the coup d'etat that is desired against the government," an unidentified person yelled as others bashed the car's windows.

Managua auxiliary Bishop Silvio Baez tweeted later that Mata, who sought safety in a nearby home, was not in danger.

It was the second attack in a week on Catholic officials, who have been mediating stalled talks on finding a peaceful solution to the standoff and have criticized Ortega's government over the killings.

The Sandinista-allied news portal 19 Digital published photos of highways that it said had been "liberated" of roadblocks, adding that "the people can circulate with tranquility and security to go about their daily activities."

Protesters have maintained the blockades for weeks to pressure Ortega, who has rejected demands for early elections and calls those seeking his exit "coup mongers."

The government says more than 200 people have been killed since the unrest began April 19, but independent rights groups say the number is higher.