(CNN)UK officials arrested Rwandan intelligence chief Emmanuel Karenzi Karake at London’s Heathrow Airport in “connection with war crimes” in a move that has outraged Rwandan government officials.
The British High Commission in Rwanda confirmed Tuesday that the Metropolitan Police arrested Karake, who’s the head of Rwanda’s National Intelligence and Security Services, early Saturday on behalf of the Spanish authorities.
“This was a legal obligation, following the issue of a valid European Arrest Warrant,” the commission said on its Facebook page. It added that Britain had been “a close partner in Rwanda’s remarkable progress since the horrific events of the genocide in 1994.”
The Metropolitan Police said Karake, 54, appeared before Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Saturday afternoon “after being arrested on a European Arrest Warrant on behalf of the authorities in Spain, where he is wanted in connection with war crimes against civilians.”
Karake was remanded in custody and is due to appear in court again Thursday, police said.
His arrest will doubtless stir up painful memories around the Rwandan genocide two decades ago.
Louise Mushikiwabo, minister for foreign affairs and co-operation in Rwanda, expressed her anger over the arrest via Twitter.
“Western solidarity in demeaning Africans is unacceptable!! It is an outrage to arrest #Rwanda-n official based on pro-genocidaires lunacy!” she tweeted.
Mushikiwabo also said that the United Nations had in 2009 “amply documented” that the Spanish nongovernmental organizations she said were behind the “preposterous” European Arrest Warrant for Karake supported a Hutu militia group.
In 1994, Hutu extremists in Rwanda targeted minority ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus in a three-month killing spree that left an estimated 800,000 people dead. Hutu attackers burned down churches with hundreds or thousands of Tutsis inside. In some cases, wielding machetes, they entered homes and slaughtered children and grandparents.
The violence was triggered by the death of President Juvenal Habyarimana, an ethnic Hutu, in an April 1994 plane crash.
The armed forces of now-President Paul Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front, of which Karake was also a member, eventually defeated the troops, stopping the wave of bloodletting.
Rights groups have since accused the Rwandan Patriotic Front — a Tutsi-dominated group — of killing thousands of Hutu civilians in the aftermath of the genocide.
The European Arrest Warrant issued by a Spanish judge in 2008 accused 39 other Rwandan officers besides Karake of wrongdoing.
Remembering — and trying to forget — Rwanda’s genocide, 20 years on