Patrick Karegeya,Rwanda's former spy chief, who was found dead, possibly strangled, in a hotel in Joburg.

Washington/Johannesburg - The United States has condemned the killing of a former Rwandan spy chief and dissident found dead in a luxury Johannesburg hotel, and voiced concern over a threatening statement by Rwandan strongman Paul Kagame.

The body of Patrick Karegeya, a fierce critic of Kagame who had spent the past several years in exile, had marks to the neck, South African police said, indicating he might have been strangled.

The police, who found a bloodied towel and a rope in the room's safe, have opened a murder probe, and Karegeya's supporters hae accused the Rwandan government of carrying out an assassination. The body was found January 1.

“Well, we condemn - we are aware of the case. We condemn the murder of former Rwandan government official, Colonel Patrick Karegeya in South Africa, where he lived in exile,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told a press briefing on Thursday.

She said the US welcomes South Africa's “prompt and thorough investigation” into Karegeya's death and was awaiting the outcome of the probe.

“We also welcome their statement pledging... to leave no stone unturned in bringing to justice those involved in this criminal act,” Psaki said.

“And let me also say we are troubled by the succession of what appear to be politically motivated murders of prominent Rwandan exiles. President Kagame's recent statements about, quote, consequences for those who betray Rwanda, are of deep concern to us.”

Kagame on Sunday said in Kigali that “treason brings consequences”, without referring directly to the Karegeya case.

“If someone feels no shame in destroying what we have built over a period of time, I for my part will not feel shy of protecting what we have built. Anyone who betrays our cause or wishes our people ill will fall victim. What remains to be seen is how you fall victim,” Kagame said.

Karegeya was the former head of Rwanda's external intelligence service and once a close ally of Kagame.

In 2004 he was demoted, then arrested and served an 18-month jail sentence for desertion and insubordination. He was stripped of his rank of colonel in July 2006 and he fled the country the following year. - AFP