The arrests were announced hours before a protest rally against the government of President Abdoulaye Wade scheduled for Saturday on the 11th anniversary of his presidency [EPA]

Authorities in Senegal have arrested a number of suspects believed to have been plotting a coup d'etat in the West African state.

"The state prosecutor has decided to nip in the bud a plot aimed at a coup d'etat by arresting a number of individuals identified as members of the plot," Justice Minister Cheikh Tidiane Sy said in a statement read out on state television on Saturday.

Tidiane Sy said authorities had learned that "commandos" linked to opposition groups had been planning a number of actions around the capital which would have resulted in deaths.

He said the suspects had targeted areas including the sprawling Sandaga market in downtown Dakar, a stretch of the corniche road which runs around the city centre, and the working class Parcelles-Assainie district further north. He gave no further details.

Saturday's protest

The arrests were announced hours before a protest rally against the government of President Abdoulaye Wade scheduled for Saturday in the capital Dakar and which has been backed by a broad coalition of opposition parties.

The protest marks the 11th anniversary of Wade's presidency and is being held in Dakar's central Independence Square, which organisers are dubbing "Tahrir Place" for the day in homage to the epicentre of Egypt's uprising.

Tidiane Sy confirmed the demonstration would be allowed to be held as planned.

Few expect the protest to gain the momentum being seen across the Middle East, although it is being closely watched for how big a turnout the country's fragmented opposition can draw less than a year before Wade faces re-election in February 2012.

Opposition leaders accuse the octogenarian leader of bending constitutional rules to allow himself to stand for a third term, and suspect him of nurturing plans to engineer the succession of his son Karim Wade as president afterwards -- charges he denies.

The mostly Muslim country is rare in the region in that it has a tradition of peaceful transition of power through the ballot box.

Recently donors have raised concerns about levels of official corruption, which Wade has said he is determined to fight.

Source: Agencies