Senegalese authorities have charged former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre with war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and genocide and remanded him in custody pending trial.

The 70-year-old was arrested on Sunday in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, where he has been living in exile for 22 years since he was overthrown in a 1990 coup.

Human rights groups hold Habre, once dubbed "Africa's Pinochet", responsible for the torture or killing up to 40,000 people during his 1982-1990 presidency, a charge he has denied.

Habre was ousted by incumbent President Idriss Deby Itno, who hailed his arrest as a step towards "an Africa free of all evil, an Africa stripped of all dictatorships".

Delayed for years by Senegal where he has lived since then, Habre's trial will set a precedent as until now African leaders accused of atrocities have only been tried in international courts.

Last year, the UN's International Court of Justice ordered Senegal to put him on trial or extradite him.

Senegal and the African Union signed an agreement in December to set up the court to try Habre for the offences.

Habre was also wanted for trial in Belgium on war crimes and crimes against humanity charges after three Belgian nationals of Chadian origin filed suit in 2000 for arbitrary arrest, mass murder and torture.

Source: Agencies