Witnesses in Ivory Coast say troops loyal to incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo have killed at least seven women during a protest calling for him to step down.
The attack took place Thursday as a group of women demonstrated in Abobo, a district of the country's largest city, Abidjan. Residents say uniformed troops pulled up to the scene in armored vehicles and opened fire on the crowd.
Most residents in Abobo support Alassane Ouattara, the U.N.-certified winner of Ivory Coast's presidential election in November. Mr. Gbagbo has refused to yield power to Mr. Ouattara despite intense international pressure to do so.
Related video of a protest in Ivory Coast:
The attack prompted a quick rebuke from the United States and the United Nations.
U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley denounced Mr. Gbagbo as morally bankrupt. In New York, the U.N. Security Council said it is deeply concerned about the escalation of violence and said it could lead to a resurgence of civil war in Ivory Coast.
U.N. officials say fighting in Abobo has killed at least 26 people since last week. They say another 200,000 people have fled the district.
Clashes have escalated between pro-Gbagbo troops and Ouattara supporters, who include gunmen that call themselves "mystic" commandos.
The United Nations says about 70,000 Ivorians have fled into neighboring Liberia and Guinea to escape the turmoil.
Separately, African Union heads of state are set to meet Friday in Mauritania to discuss how to end the crisis.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.