Key opposition leader arrested

Ugandan police on Monday arrested leading opposition leader Col (rtd) Kizza Besigye nearly three weeks after he returned from a four-year self-imposed exile in South Africa, the police said.

The arrest sparked clashes between police and hundreds of Besigye's supporters who gathered outside the Central Police Station on hearing that he had been seized. The crowded pelted the police with stones when the security forces fired tear gas to disperse them.

Besigye, a runner-up in the 2001 presidential elections, was arrested as he arrived in the capital, Kampala, after spending the weekend in southwestern Uganda addressing political rallies.

"As we were coming back from Mbarara, police came and surrounded our vehicles, saying they wanted to talk to Besigye. We refused and they tried to get him out of the car, but we locked the car and told them that we would follow them to wherever they wanted us to go," said Betty Kamya, an official in Besigye's Forum for Democratic Change.

Police confirmed Besigye's arrest, but declined to say what he would be changed with. Police chief Kale Kaihura, however, claimed that Besigye had links with two rebel groups, the People's Redemption Army (PRA) and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).

"He has been arrested and he is linked with PRA and LRA," said Kaihura.

Besigye fled Uganda in 2001 soon after presidential elections, won by incumbent President Yoweri Museveni, alleging that his life was in danger.

He was Museveni's personal doctor during the guerrilla war that ousted Milton Obote and brought Museveni into power in 1986.