July 10 (UPI) -- Clashes between security forces and anti-government protesters in Nicaragua are intensifying and have led to the deadliest day in the country since the conflict began in April.
Thirty-eight people, including four police officers and three members of pro-government groups, were killed on Sunday -- up from earlier reports that 14 people were killed, the Nicaraguan Centre for Human Rights said.
The Catholic Church, acting as a mediator in talks between the government and the protesters, had three of their own attacked Monday.
Archbishop of Managua Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, the Apostolic Nuncio to the Central American nation and the Auxiliary Bishop of Managua, Jose Silvio Baez were attacked by pro-government paramilitaries, the Vatican said.
The attack took place as the prelates, priests and journalists arrived outside the San Sebastian Basilica in Diriamba to help anti-government protesters trapped inside the besieged church.
Also on Monday, U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua Laura Dogu said she heard gunfire at her Managua home amid violence throughout the country in recent days.
Tensions have been rising in the country since mid-April when the government announced cuts to social security. The changes were reversed but as protests spread, crowds asked for President Daniel Ortega to step down.
On Saturday, Ortega announced he would not move up elections scheduled for 2021, a request made by the Nicaraguan Catholic Bishops in their role as mediators.
Last week, the U.S. Treasury Department put sanctions on three top Nicaraguan officials for alleged human rights abuses and corruption.