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Ivory Coast protesters gunned down

Six female protesters have been machine gunned to death by security forces loyal to the leader clinging to power in the Ivory Coast.

The women were protesting at his refusal to leave office, as the UN said more than 200,000 people have fled the intensified fighting.

The demonstrators were cut down in the suburb of Abobo, scene of the bloodiest clashes in the three-month-long-crisis.

Mohamed Dosso, an assistant to the mayor of Abobo, said an armoured personnel carrier and several pick-up trucks appeared 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 November 28 election, almost all of them men and almost all of them supporters of internationally recognised winner Alassane Ouattara.

The UN said that at least 26 people have been killed in Abobo in the last 24 hours alone.

The stand-off 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.

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