Chad leader says ex-dictator Habre arrest ends 'ordeal'

The arrest of Chad's former dictator Hissene Habre marked the end of an "ordeal", Chadian President Idriss Deby said Monday following Habre's detention in Senegal a day earlier on suspicion of crimes against humanity.

"The 23-year-long ordeal is over. Hissene Habre has been arrested and locked up by the Senegalese justice mandated by the African Union. Today, two decades later, history has caught up with Habre," said Deby on national radio.

Habre, known as "Africa's Pinochet" for his violent and repressive rule of Chad in the 1980s, also faces accusations of war crimes and torture during his eight years in power. Rights groups say that some 40,000 people were killed under his rule.

After 22 years spent in exile in Senegal, his arrest in Dakar is the first step towards a trial which will be a watershed for the continent as African leaders have until now only been tried in international courts.

"Macky Sall just made history in Africa, an Africa of tomorrow, an Africa free of all evil, an Africa stripped of all dictatorships or any form of oppression," said Deby, referring to the Senegalese president.

Deby also asked that Chad "pursue all those" that participated in Habre's dictatorship and called for the cooperation of African and European countries in tracking down the "criminals".

"No one will go unpunished," he said.

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 during his 1982-1990 regime.