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Arrests made after death of Rwanda's ex-spy boss

Sapa-AP, Sapa

Three suspects have been arrested in connection with the death of Rwanda's former spy chief Patrick Karegeya, who was found dead in a Sandton hotel.

Rwanda's former spy chief Patrick Karegeya. (Salem News)

Three Rwandan nationals were arrested for the murder of Rwanda's former spy chief Patrick Karegeya, the New Age reported on Wednesday.

Karegeya (53) was living in exile in South Africa for a number of years. He was found dead in the Michelangelo Towers in Sandton, Johannesburg, last Wednesday.

Private investigator Chad Thomas reportedly said Rwanda's Lieutenant Colonel Francis Gakwere was among those arrested in Maputo, Mozambique, for Karegeya's murder.

"Gwakere was also a prime suspect in the failed hit on General Kayumba Nyamwasa in 2010 but there was insufficient evidence to allow the charges to stick," Thomas was quoted as saying.

Three other suspects were still on the run.

Karegeya's nephew David Batenga said he last saw his uncle with a close family friend, Apollo Kiririsi, at the hotel.

The New Age reported that Kiririsi had since been seen in Rwanda and had denied any involvement in the killing.

Kagame accusations
Former Rwandan army chief-of-staff Nyamwasa and others have accused Rwandan President Paul Kagame of ordering Karegeya's assassination.

Kagame has denied the claims.

While the Rwandan government denies it targets dissidents for assassination, the death of Karegeya fits a pattern of attacks on Rwandan dissidents. Kagame has long been accused of extra-territorial killings, including ones committed when Karegeya was the feared boss of Rwanda's external security agency.

Among the attacks, gunmen twice tried to kill Kagame's former chief of army staff Nyamwasa while he was living in exile in Johannesburg in 2010. Nyamwasa told the Associated Press in 2012 that Kagame has hunted him and other dissidents around the world "using hired killer squads".

Rwanda's foreign minister said on Monday her government had no sympathy for the slain former spy chief. He had a falling out with the country's president. Rwanda's prime minister also warned on Monday that betraying one's country brought consequences.

In Twitter messages, Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said Karegeya was a "self-declared" enemy of their African nation. Referring to Karegeya's death, she tweeted: "You expect pity?"

Responding to the tweets, Karegeya's eldest son Elvis asked her on Twitter: "So it's your government's view that any 'enemy' of the state deserves to be strangled to death?" Mushikiwabo responded: "It's my Gov position: 1. what happens to its enemies shd not make it lose sleep & 2. investigation shd proceed"

She repeated accusations that the slain dissident colonel and his colleagues had been behind grenade attacks in Rwanda in recent years.

Fake SA passport
Karegeya's family, meanwhile, said the Ugandan government has rejected a request for him to be buried in Uganda, the country of his birth and where his mother and siblings still live. James Mugume, the permanent secretary at Uganda's foreign ministry, said on Monday Karegeya cannot be buried in Uganda because of "sovereignty" issues.

"He was a citizen of Rwanda and was resident in South Africa. We don't want to interfere in other countries' matters," Mugume said.

In an interview with the Associated Press on Monday, Karegeya's nephew Batenga, said he believes that the last person seen with Karegeya used a fake passport to enter South Africa. Batenga said on Monday that the man, whose full name is Apollo Kiririsi Gafaranga, had seemed to be a friend of the former Rwandan external intelligence chief.

"We haven't been able to find any record of him entering the country. So he must have used a fake passport," Batenga said.

Fears of the Rwandan regime
Three days earlier, Batenga and his uncle had picked Gafaranga up at a light-rail station and driven him to the plush Michelangelo Towers where he had asked to be booked in. According to family members and friends, Gafaranga had spent years earning Karegeya's trust and had travelled to South Africa at least four times, always apparently on fake documents and staying at Karegeya's home.

But this time asked to be booked into a hotel, citing growing fears of the Rwandan regime and the security risk to his friend.

Karegeya was found dead in the hotel room after failing to respond to phone calls and text messages from his nephew. Gafaranga was gone, taking only his cellphone and wallet with him and leaving his suitcase behind in the room, Batenga said. Batenga believes more than one person was involved in the killing, saying it would likely take a several men to overpower his uncle and there weren't any signs of a massive struggle in the hotel room. – Sapa, Sapa-AP

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