Ivorian security forces shot dead at least six women who were protesting in support of presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara, two witnesses and a security source said.
There are fears a power struggle between Ouattara and incumbent Laurent Gbagbo, who has rejected widespread calls to stand down after a November 28 election, could push the top cocoa grower back into civil war.
The women gathered at the Anador roundabout in Abidjan’s Abobo neighbourhood for a planned march to call on Gbagbo to step down, a witness said, reports Reuters.
“Men in uniform drove up and started shooting randomly. Six women died on the spot. They were all shot and the other women are crying,” said Idrissa Diarrassouba.
Another Abobo resident said that 10 women had been killed and dozens others wounded when security forces opened fire.
“I’m standing next to a body right now, with a bullet hole in her neck,” said Moussa Fofana, a teacher.
There was no official comment on the incident. A military source confirmed the shooting but said it had been an accident.
The security forces were on edge as they have been previously shot at by gunmen hiding amongst unarmed demonstrators, he added.
Last week, Abobo was the scene of heavy clashes between pro-Gbagbo forces and gunmen who are calling themselves the “Invisible Commandos” and have taken control of parts of Abobo.
Pro-Gbagbo forces remain in the area around Anador.
A poll meant to reunify a country divided since its 2002-3 civil war has sparked a crisis that has killed well more than 300 people and forced tens of thousands to flee their homes.
ICE cocoa hit a fresh 32-year peak of $3,726 a tonne in early trading on Thursday as the crisis deepens.