KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) _ Security police detained Sudan's leading Islamic opposition leader Hassan Turabi early Wednesday, his wife said.

Wisal el-Mahdi told The Associated Press that a large squad of police came to their Khartoum home at about 1:30 a.m. local time and arrested her husband, saying he was ``was wanted by the authorities.''

The arrest came three days after the government detained members of Turabi's Popular National Congress and some military officers in connection with an alleged plot to overthrow the government of President Omar el-Bashir.

``We were expecting this arrest'' because of the alleged coup attempt, Wisal el-Mahdi said.

Turabi was once a close ally of el-Bashir and the main ideologue of the Islamic fundamentalist government set up after el-Bashir seized power in 1989. But the two men fell out in 1999 when el-Bashir accused Turabi, then the speaker of parliament, of trying to grab power and stripped him of his position.

Turabi then formed the Popular National Congress and became the most prominent Islamist in opposition.

On Monday, the party issued a statement denying any involvement in the alleged coup attempt. The statement said government officials had said that the plot involved members of the security forces in the western province of Darfur, where local tribes have been in revolt since early 2003.

In November, Vice President Ali Osman Mohammed Taha accused the Turabi's party of ``sparing no efforts in fanning the fire of sedition'' in Darfur, where the fighting has killed thousands of people and forced more than 110,000 others to flee to neighboring Chad.

The party denies it is linked to the Darfur rebellion.