Senegal's Barthelemy Dias faces murder charges

Barthelemy Dias (23 December)
Image caption Barthelemy Dias is his party's youth leader and a mayor of a district in the capital

A leading member of Senegal's opposition Socialist Party has been arrested on murder charges after a man was shot dead during recent political clashes, his lawyers say.

Barthelemy Dias says he fired his guns in self-defence after his office was attacked by ruling party activists.

The death has raised tension ahead of February's presidential election.

Senegal is normally seen as one of West Africa's most stable and democratic countries.

It is the only country in the region never to have experienced a military coup.

Mr Dias, PS youth leader and mayor of a district in the capital, Dakar, says his town hall came under attack from supporters of President Abdoulaye Wade's Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) on 22 December.

Video of him repeatedly firing two pistols at the attackers has been widely aired in the Senegalese media.

"Barthelemy Dias has been remanded in custody on three charges: Murder; assault and battery, and illegal possession of firearms," his lawyer El Hadj Diouf said, Reuters news agency reports.

One of Mr Dias' bodyguards has also been detained, the lawyer said.

A recent upsurge in violence in the southern Casamance area has also been linked to the forthcoming elections.

On Wednesday, the army confirmed that five soldiers had been kidnapped by the region's MFDC rebels, according to the AFP news agency.

The Socialist Party (PS) governed from independence in 1960 until Abdoulaye Wade won elections in 2000.

Mr Wade, 85, is seeking a third term in February, despite opposition claims his bid is unconstitutional.

Presidents are only allowed two terms in office but Mr Wade says this only applies to elections held since a new constitution was introduced in 2001.

In June, he dropped plans to change the constitution followed widespread protests from opposition groups who accused him of grooming his son, Karim, to succeed him.

If his candidacy is confirmed, he is likely to face challenges from several opposition parties.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites