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Friday, January 16, 1998 Published at 07:55 GMT

image: [ BBC correspondent Fergal Keane ]Fergal Keane

The United Nations representative in Rwanda, Omar Bahket, has warned of a renewed danger of ethnic mass killings in the country. In a BBC interview, he urged the international community to help the Rwandan government avert a potential catastrophe. Up to 1 million people - mostly Tutsis - were killed in Rwanda in the civil war of 1994. This report is from Fergal Keane, who has just returned from the northwest of the country, where there has been an increase in ethnically motivated attacks and killings:

There's little doubt that the situation in the northwest of the country has deteriorated significantly. Travelling between the main towns of Ruhengeri and Gisenyi, one is struck by the level of tension and the high military presence.

We encountered the aftermath of an ambush by Hutu extremists, with vehicles still smouldering on the road and the belongings of their victims scattered on the ground. Some 15 people died in that one ambush.

The security situation has prompted the UN representative in the capital, Kigali, Omar Bakhet, to give this strong warning:

"The situation here is very precarious. I think we do see an increase in security incidents, but I do believe that interventions were not made at the right time. We may have a major crisis on our hands ..."

Mr Bakhet believes the Kigali government should be given further financial and political support by the international community.

But there has also been criticism of the Kigali government from human rights groups, who say the Tutsi-dominated army is killing large numbers of Hutu civilians in its counter-attacks against the extremists.

The problem is that with support among many in the majority Hutu group, the extremist militias will prove difficult to defeat.

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