Security forces loyal to the man clinging to power in Ivory Coast fatally shot six women protesting his refusal to leave office Thursday, as the U.N. said more than 200,000 people have fled the intensified fighting.
The demonstrators were cut down by machine gunfire in Abobo, the suburb that has been the scene of the bloodiest clashes in the three-month-long-crisis.
Mohamed Dosso, an assistant to the mayor of Abobo, said an armored personnel carrier and several pickups showed up as the women were protesting and opened fire. Groups of women have been leading marches believing that sitting president Laurent Gbagbo's forces would not open fire on women.
Nearly 400 people have been killed since the disputed Nov. 28 election, almost all of them men and almost all of them supporters of internationally recognized winner Alassane Ouattara. The U.N. said Thursday that at least 26 people have been killed in Abobo in the last 24 hours alone.
The standoff between the two men claiming to be president reached a new level recently as the army began using war-like weapons, including mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.
Multiple delegations of African leaders have come through Abidjan, Ivory Coast's commercial hub, in an attempt to persuade Gbagbo to leave office. Gbagbo has rejected all their proposals, including offers of amnesty and a comfortable exile abroad.
Associated Press writer Marco Chown Oved contributed to this report.
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