Police have begun a murder investigation after Rwanda's former spy chief was found dead in a hotel in South Africa. Opposition leaders immediately accused President Paul Kagame of ordering his assassination.
The opposition coalition Rwandan National Congress said Patrick Karegeya, a former colonel and longtime Kagame ally in war who turned against him in peace, was found strangled in a room at Johannesburg's plush Michelangelo Towers hotel.
A police statement said: "He was found in the hotel room dead on the bed. Preliminary investigations revealed that his neck (was) swollen. A towel with blood and a rope were found in the hotel room safe. There is a possibility that he might have been strangled."
It said his body was found on New Year's Day. Congress co-ordinator Theogene Rudasingwa said it is unclear if Mr Karegeya was killed on Tuesday or Wednesday. He said Mr Karegeya's death follows a pattern of assassinations ordered by Mr Kagame.
Mr Kagame's government has vehemently denied such charges, though Rwandan exiles say British, US and Belgian law enforcers have frequently warned them that their government is plotting to kill them.
Gunmen twice tried to kill Mr Kagame's former chief of army staff, Lt Gen Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, while he was living in exile in Johannesburg in 2010.
Mr Rudasingwa said Mr Karegeya had gone to the Johannesburg hotel to meet a Rwandan man who had posed as a friend of the opposition.
"By killing its opponents, the criminal regime in Kigali seeks to intimidate and silence the Rwandan people into submission," said an opposition statement signed by Mr Rudasingwa. "The regime is hugely mistaken. Such criminal activities make Rwandan people more emboldened to struggle to remove the dictatorship."
Mr Karegeya and Lt Gen Nyamwasa were among four top former Rwandan army officers who formed an opposition party in exile six years ago.
They had fought with Mr Kagame in the Ugandan rebel movement that brought Yoweri Museveni to power in 1986. Mr Museveni then allowed them bases and training to form their own Tutsi rebel movement. Mr Kagame's Rwandan Patriotic Front came to power in 1994, when it ended the genocide in which some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed.
The four defectors were sentenced in Rwanda in their absence to long prison terms in 2011 for allegedly promoting tribal divisions and threatening state security with grenade attacks in Kigali, Rwanda's capital. Rwanda had issued international arrest warrants for the men.
Mr Karegeya, who was 53, according to police, leaves a wife and three children.