Zambian opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema has accused President Edgar Lungu of trying to kill him after security forces raided his home in the capital Lusaka on Tuesday morning (11 April), forcing him to retreat to a safe room in the house.

Hichilema lost to Lungu in August 2016 in a tightly contested election which was marred by allegations of rigging, with both sides accusing the other of inciting violence for political gain. Hichilema and his deputy Geoffrey Mwamba were granted bail in October 2016 after being charged with sedition.

Zambian police forcibly entered the United Party for National Development (UPND) president's residence in a bid to arrest him. Hichilema was held at a police station, according to a tweet by his party.

Speaking to South Africa's private Daily Maverick news site, Hichilema accused Lungu of trying to kill him.

"This guy, Lungu, he wants to kill me. He's basically broken into my house and put his men around. The whole night they were harassing my wife and children (...) They have beaten all my workers. And they are still here. This guy is a dictator, a full-blown dictator. We've been saying so, no one in the region has been listening, and this is the consequence of not taking notice," the opposition leader said.

Hichilema, a father of three, alleged that the security forces had used "some kind of toxic gas" in an attempt to force him and his family out of the safe room.

"My wife is asthmatic and my child is asthmatic, they are fainting. Our eyes are swollen from the toxic gas they have been pushing in here. We are injured, my family is injured. My workers around the homestead were tortured the whole night," Hichilema said.

Following his arrest, the leader was "transferred from Woodlands Police station to Lilayi Police College after recording a warn and caution statement," his party confirmed.

The 54-year old ran for the top seat five times in 2006, 2008, 2011, 2015 and 2016.

This comes as international NGOs this week urged Zambia to remain in the International Criminal Court (ICC) amid concerns the respect of human rights has been "steadily declin(ing) in Zambia since the Patriotic Front (PF) government came into power in 2011", according to Human Rights Watch.

Following the elections in August last year, the government tightened its control over the media after the state broadcasting authority suspended broadcasting licences for three independent media houses it claimed had posed a risk to peace and stability during the poll.

The government is yet to comment on Hichilema's claims.