The killing of the seven protesters has triggered mass protests and international condemnation [AFP]

Hundreds of women protested on Tuesday in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire's commercial capital, over last week's fatal shooting of seven female demonstrators.

Seven women were killed by security forces as they took part in a demonstration against President Laurent Gbagbo, who has scoffed at calls to step down despite losing the November 28 election that the UN says was won by Alassane Quattara, his main rival.

Soldiers reportedly shot dead four people on Tuesday in an incident separate from the march.

The Associated Press said its photographer saw the bodies of three men and one woman inside a clinic where the victims had been taken for treatment.

The overwhelmed clinic had nowhere to put them, except on the floor where the blood of the dead pooled together, the photographer said.

Earlier, male relatives built a wall of burned-out cars to block the mouth of the freeway leading into Abidjan's suburb of Abobo where the female protesters, dressed in white and wearing red headbands, had gathered.

Mariam Bamba, 32, picked up a tree branch next to one of the blood stains on the pavement where the women were felled by gunfire.

"This leaf is all that they were carrying when they were killed," she said.

Many of the organisers of the deadly demonstration stayed home on Tuesday fearing reprisal by security forces.

But hundreds of others took to the streets in defiance on International Women's Day to express their disgust at the regime of Gbagbo.

Al Jazeera's Mohammed Adow, reporting from Abidjan, said: "The problems are getting bigger here. And the concern at the moment is that there could be a re-ignition of a civil war here because both sides continue to dig in and there seems to be little hope for a compromise from either side."

International outcry

Gbagbo, in power for more than a decade, has refused to step down in the West African country which is the world's leading cocoa producer, triggering violence that has killed nearly 400 people as his troops clash with pro-Quattara rebels.

The killing of the women protesters has drawn international outcry, with Britain's foreign office minister for Africa, Henry Bellingham, calling it "a deplorable and cowardly act ".

He called for the results of the presidential elections to be respected.

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, issued a stinging rebuke saying that "Gbagbo and his forces have shown a callous disregard for human life".

More than 200,000 people have fled the suburb of Abobo, the local UN peacekeeping mission reported, after Gbagbo's security forces entered the neighbourhood and began shelling it with mortars.

Antonio Guterres, the UN high commissioner for refugees, told Al Jazeera tens of thousands of Ivorians had sought refuge in neighbouring Liberia and many more had been internally displaced.

"We have already 70,000 people in Liberia and Liberia has been extremely generous hosting them, but this - as you can imagine - represents a huge burden for a country that is itself in a proces of transition and peace building," he said.

"The indications we have from Cote d'Ivoire are that more and more people are displaced. In the last three days 300,000 people have been displaced inside the country and that level of suffering that this population is enduring is absolutely appalling.

"Unfortunately - because obviously the Libyan crisis has occupied the centre of the attention of the international community - there been not enough effort; not enough commitment to support the Ivorian people in this very tragic situation."

The UN is preparing to deploy an additional 2,000 troops to beef up the 8,000-strong force of peacekeepers in the country.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies