LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — The man who was last seen with the Rwandan ex-spymaster killed in a South African hotel was a Rwandan businessman who befriended the victim in jail and whom he trusted "absolutely," said a former Rwandan general who has survived two assassination attempts.
Police say former Col. Patrick Karegeya's body, apparently strangled, was found Wednesday in Michelangelo Towers hotel in the Johannesburg suburb of Sandton, along with a bloodied towel and rope.
Former Rwandan army chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa and others accuse Rwandan President Paul Kagame of ordering Karegeya's assassination and two 2010 attempts on Nyamwasa's life in Johannesburg. Officials in Kigali, the Rwandan capital, have made no comment since Karegeya's death but have previously vehemently denied charges they target opponents of the government.
Nyamwasa said Karegeya, 53, was last seen by a family member at the hotel with Apollo Ismael Kiririsi.
Nyamwasa said he had twice met Karegeya with Kiririsi. "I think he (Karegeya) trusted him absolutely but they were together in the (hotel) room and now one is killed the other has not been able to give any account of himself." Nyamwasa spoke in a telephone interview from his home in exile in Johannesburg, South Africa's commercial capital.
He said Karegeya's nephew, David Batenga, had been the last family member to see the former spy chief. Batenga and Karegeya picked up Kiririsi from the train station on Sunday. The three men spent several hours together and dined on Tuesday before Batenga left the two men at the hotel, Nyamwasa said.
The discovery of the body a day later means any killer or killers may already have left the country. The Independent newspaper of South Africa said police had to break into the room, which had a "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door.
Police have not announced any arrests but have said they are searching for a Rwandan man and are pursuing several leads. There has also been no announcement about an ordered autopsy.
Theogene Rudasingwa, another Rwandan dissident and formerly secretary general of Kagame's Rwandan Patriotic Front party, told The Associated Press that Karegeya's body was found in a room rented by a man called "Apollo." Police said Karegeya, who had a home in the town of Roodepoort just outside of Johannesburg, had checked into the hotel.
Karegeya, Nyamwasa, Rudasingwa and some others were once allies of Kagame, and are now critics. Karegeya headed the feared external intelligence agency from 1994, when Kagame's rebel movement took power and ended the Rwandan genocide, until 2004. Several Kagame opponents were killed in that time, including former Interior Minister Seth Sendashonga, who was gunned down in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1998.
The most recent killing that critics blamed on Kagame is the October 2012 death of Theogene Turatsinze, the former managing director of the Rwandan Development Bank who was found tied up and floating in the sea in Mozambique.
Nyamwasa said Karegeya had told him that Kiririsi had befriended him while Karegeya was jailed in Rwanda in 2004, for alleged insubordination and desertion. A military tribunal stripped Karegeya of his rank in 2006 and he fled to South Africa in 2007, where he was given refugee status and a South African security detail, according to Nyamwasa.
But he said Karegeya asked the South Africans to stop protecting him more than a year ago, apparently because the restrictions prevented him from working and he needed money to pay school fees for three children living abroad.
Nyamwasa, 55, said he hoped a South African court case into the attempt on his life soon will be concluded. Three Rwandans and three Tanzanians are accused in the 2010 shooting that has left a bullet lodged in the base of his spine. Prosecutors have refused to say if they believe the Rwandan government could be responsible.
The chief suspect is another Rwandan businessman, Pascal Kanyandekwe, accused of bankrolling the plot, recruiting the gunmen and offering a $1 million bribe to a police officer to free him, according to prosecutors and witnesses in the court case.