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Page last updated at 19:39 GMT, Friday, 19 February 2010

Several dead in Ivory Coast clashes

Demonstration in town of Toumodi 17 February 2010
There has been a series of protests since the government was dissolved

Several people have been killed in Ivory Coast during clashes between security forces and demonstrators.

Security forces fired live bullets into the crowd of thousands of protesters, a demonstrator told the BBC.

The violence in the town of Gagnoa is the latest in a series of protests against President Laurent Gbagbo.

Last week, Mr Gbagbo dissolved the government and the electoral commission following a row over voter registration.

The opposition accuse him of stalling on presidential elections, which have been delayed every year since 2005.

'Gunshot wounds'

Since last Friday there have been protests in towns across the country, but this is the first time people have been killed.

The BBC's John James in the commercial capital Abidjan spoke to one of the demonstrators in Gagnoa, who said the police had fired into the crowd with real bullets.

Prime Minster Guillaume Soro 18 February 2010
The prime minister has to form a new government by Saturday

Other reports said the deaths had come afterwards when police searched for opposition protestors.

Speaking to the AFP news agency, hospital staff in the town said three bodies had been brought to the hospital and that the victims had gunshot wounds.

The Associated Press news agency, quoting the opposition, says three people were killed and more than a dozen injured, after police opened fire on demonstrators.

A police source confirmed to AFP that there were "some dead", but he could not say how many people had been killed.

There are reports of demonstrations during the day in several other towns in Ivory Coast.

AFP says that at Bingerville in the south, near Abidjan, the army fired shots in the air and tear gas to disperse demonstrators.

And at Tiebissou in the centre of the country, scuffles broke out between demonstrators and security forces. A local opposition official said several people had been hurt, says AFP.

Correspondents say Ivory Coast is under increasing international pressure to restart an electoral process that is meant to end a crisis sparked by a civil war in 2002 and 2003.

A week ago, the president announced that Ivory Coast's government had been dissolved.

He also said he was disbanding the election commission, saying its director Robert Beugre Mambe had been "running an illegal operation". Mr Mambe is a member of an opposition party.

For the last month the dispute over the electoral commission has led to increasing tension over the electoral roll, which is in the process of being verified before the election.

The presidential camp has been trying to eliminate several thousand people from the roll in the last few weeks, accusing them of fraudulently being Ivorian.

The opposition say almost all these names are in fact Ivorians from ethnic groups originating in the north and unlikely to vote for Mr Gbagbo.

Elections, last scheduled for 29 November 2009, have been postponed six times.

President Gbagbo was elected in October 2000 for a five-year term.

Last week, Prime Minister Guillaume Soro, the leader of the ex-rebels, suspended judicial rulings on voter-enrolment because of rising tensions.

Mr Soro is expected to propose a new power-sharing government by Saturday evening.



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