honduras violence
© File photo REUTERS / Jorge Cabrera
Honduran military police opened fire at protesters outside the national university, injuring five people. Authorities said live ammunition was used in response to molotov cocktails which injured officers.

Protests demanding the resignation of the country's president, Juan Orlando Hernandez, have intensified in recent weeks as momentum gathers against privatization and austerity measures targeting the health and education sectors.

"About 40 military police entered the university campus without authorization," Armando Sarmiento, director of institutional development at the Tegucigalpa-based university, told AFP. The military police reportedly pursued the students across the campus "shooting them with live rounds," Sarmiento added.

Five students were treated at a local hospital for bullet wounds but their injuries were not life-threatening.

Meanwhile, security forces accused the protesters of using "modified Molotov cocktails to make them more lethal," adding that two soldiers had suffered burns. Police initially fired tear gas to disperse the protesters on Monday but were met with a barrage of stones and other improvised projectiles before opening fire as the violence escalated.

Three people were killed in protest violence last week.

Hernandez is a loyal US ally, despite his own brother currently standing trial in the US for drug smuggling. The protests appear to be intensifying ahead of the 10th anniversary of the 2009 coup which ultimately saw Hernandez take power.

The Honduran constitution includes a strict ban on presidential re-election but a highly controversial 2015 Supreme Court ruling paved the way for Hernandez to run again in 2017, in a campaign which he won but which was mired by allegations of bribery and corruption. The Trump administration has recognized Hernandez as Honduras' legitimate president.

The US embassy in Honduras has yet to issue any formal statement regarding the protest violence and no updated travel advisory has yet been issued.