A 57-year-old Somali man was arrested in Sweden early on Monday suspected of genocide in Somalia, a country splintered by clan warfare since the early 1990s, justice officials said.
"The man was arrested in [the southern Swedish city of] Lund and immediately transferred to Gothenburg," on the southwestern coast, a police spokesperson in Lund told Agence France Presse.
"He is suspected of genocide," said Helene Carlsson, secretary to the international prosecutor in Sweden, Mats Saellstroem, who is handling the case, but neither his office nor police would disclose any more about it.
A newspaper identified the man as a key aide to one of the Horn of Africa country's warlords who carved up Somalia and have left it without an established and functioning central government since 1991.
The tabloid Aftonbladet, in its online edition, identified the suspect as Abdi Qeybdiid, the right-hand man to late warlord Mohammed Farrah Aidid, who was one of the most powerful in in the 1990s.
The international prosecutor's office is conducting a preliminary investigation into the matter, and Qeybdiid was on Monday interrogated by a special Gothenburg police unit that deals with international cases, the paper said.
Under a law passed in 1964, Swedish courts have so-called "universal jurisdiction" to try a person for genocide committed abroad. The maximum sentence is life in prison.
The conflict in Somalia, where a new government is this year attempting to establish itself and restore order, has claimed thousands of lives. The warlords run factions of heavily armed militias.
Genocide as such would be a difficult judicial charge to press, as opposed to crimes against humanity, since the conflict is among such factions. Somalis are one people who live in a clan-based society.
"The international prosecutor now has to look at the case and see what to do, see whether to indict him. These kinds of cases are incredibly complicated," said Gothenburg police spokesperson Mats Glansberg.
According to Aftonbladet, Qeybdiid was recently appointed police chief in Mogadishu and was in Sweden to attend an international conference in Lund.
A refugee who fled Somalia's civil war in the 1990s and now works as a computer programmer in the Scandinavian country recognised Qeybdiid.
He filed a police complaint where he claimed Qeybdiid led Aidid's militia. Police then decided to arrest him, Aftonbladet reported.