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Fighters of the left-wing Sandinista National Liberation Front have overthrown the regime in the central American republic of Nicaragua and taken the capital, Managua.

The notorious US-trained National Guard has crumbled and its surviving commanders are negotiating a surrender.

In the last six weeks Sandinista fighters have gained control of 27 cities around the capital as well as the southern part of Nicaragua that borders Costa Rica.

President Anastasio Somoza Debayle - the third member of the Somoza dynasty to rule Nicaragua since 1937 - has fled to the United States.

This evening he abandoned the battle-torn capital with about 45 other people in five planes that landed at Homestead US Air Force base near Miami, Florida.

Earlier, he had presented his resignation to the Congress and handed over to the chairman of the lower house, Francisco Urcuyo, who is now caretaker president.

Mr Urcuyo has declared the Sandinistas will have no part in his new government and demanded they lay down their arms.

But the Sandinista-backed provisional government currently based in the city of Leon is expected to force Mr Urcuyo to resign.


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