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Photograph: hr.wikipedia.org

There are growing signs of renewed ethnic violence between Hutu and Tutsi populations in Burundi, and a complete breakdown of public order was imminent, UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein warned Friday.

"All the alarm signals, including the increasing ethnic dimension of the crisis, are flashing red,” the UN high commissioner for human rights said in Geneva.

The most recent civil war pitted the majority Hutu against the minority Tutsi. It ended only in 2005, leaving 300,000 people dead in the East African country.

Witness accounts indicate that Tutsis have been killed and raped because of their ethnicity since December in the aftermath of violence between security forces and opposition groups, according to the UN human rights office.

Witnesses have also reported the existence of at least nine mass graves with a total of more than 100 people who were killed in December, Al-Hussein said.

In addition, there were reports of torture and enforced disappearances committed by government authorities and allied militia.

"This will inevitably end in disaster if the current rapidly deteriorating trajectory continues,” Al-Hussein said.

Burundi has been in turmoil since April, when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his bid for a third term in office, despite a constitutional two-term limit. He won an election boycotted by the opposition in July.

At least 439 people have been killed in protests, attacks and clashes between police and armed groups, according to the United Nations.

The UN human rights office plans to send investigators to Burundi in late January, but the visit has yet to be authorized by the country's authorities.

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