Reuters International

GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations human rights chief said on Wednesday 31 people have been killed in attacks in Burundi this month, decrying an increase in violence in the east African nation.

Tit-for-tat attacks between President Pierre Nkurunziza's security forces and his opponents escalated a year ago when he announced a disputed bid for a third term as president. He won re-election in July.

The United Nations says more than 400 people have been killed since then and more than 250,000 have fled the country.

"Some 31 people have been killed in attacks so far in April, compared to a total of nine people in the last month," U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein said in a statement.

"I fear that the increasing number of targeted assassinations will inevitably exacerbate the already extremely dangerous spiral of violence and unrest in Burundi."

In the latest incident, gunmen on Monday killed a brigadier general who was a senior adviser to the first vice president, along with his wife and bodyguard.

The international war crimes court said this week it would investigate the violence in Burundi.

Burundi and neighbouring Rwanda, which both have an ethnic Hutu majority and Tutsi minority, have been torn apart by ethnic conflict in the past. Experts fear the recent violence during the political crisis in Burundi may reopen old ethnic wounds and risk causing civil war.

(Reporting by Shadia Nasralla; Editing by Stephanie Nebehay and Dominic Evans)

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