Miami (AFP) – North American football governing body CONCACAF cancelled the remainder of its Women’s Under-17 Championship being staged in Nicaragua over safety concerns, the US-based organization announced Sunday.

The Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) said the event in Managua was being cancelled immediately to ensure the safety of all fans, players, delegations and participants.

“The Confederation has taken the decision to cancel the remainder of the tournament following vigilant monitoring of the situation as it has developed and in close coordination with the Nicaraguan Football Federation and local authorities,” CONCACAF said in a statement announcing the move.

The eight-team event was halfway into the group stages with Mexico and Haiti having clinched berths in the knockout rounds with Nicaragua and Puerto Rico eliminated.

The United States and Canada were in position to clinch knockout spots as well with victories Sunday over Bermuda and Costa Rica respectively.

“US Soccer officials have notified all the families of our players that our team and staff in Nicaragua are safe and secure,” the US Soccer federation said in a statement.

“We have made arrangements for the return to the United States of our team delegation and have also provided services and accommodations for all the families that traveled to Nicaragua to assist them in returning home as well.

“Safety and security is our only priority as we continue to work with CONCACAF on all matters related to the cancellation of the Women’s U-17 Championship.”

Semi-finals were scheduled for Friday with the championship and third-place matches next Sunday. Three teams were set to qualify for the FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup later this year in Uruguay.

CONCACAF said it will decide later about future steps regarding the event and FIFA qualifying.

More than 20 people have been killed in clashes between Nicaraguan police and demonstrators during a wave of protests over pension reform, a local human rights group said Sunday.

The Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights said it was still trying to verify figures, but that at least 20 people had been killed since protests erupted in the Central American country on Wednesday over plans by President Daniel Ortega to reform the nation’s pension system.