A lawyer for Hissene Habre, the former dictator of Chad who fled to Senegal decades ago, said that the ex-ruler was taken away from his home in Senegal's capital on Sunday by paramilitary police.

Laywer El Hadji Diouf said that neither he nor Habre's family knew where Habre had been taken.

In the United States, Reed Brody, a lawyer for Human Rights Watch, said he had been expecting Habre to be taken into police custody, the first step in bringing charges against him.

Though his regime is accused of systematic killings, Habre has lived freely for 22 years in Senegal and has become a symbol of the impunity enjoyed by African leaders.

Under Senegalese law, the gendarmerie can hold him for 48 hours, renewable once, before charges must be filed.