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Regional powers to hold Lesotho crisis meeting

A man stands next to a newspaper advertising board in Maseru on August 31, 2014/AFP

A man stands next to a newspaper advertising board in Maseru on August 31, 2014/AFP

MASERU, Aug 31 – Regional ministers were set to hold talks to resolve the political crisis gripping Lesotho on Sunday, as the country’s fugitive prime minster remained in South Africa after an apparent coup.

Top diplomats from the Southern African Development Community were set to meet in Pretoria, the South African government said, as it remained unclear who was in control of the small mountain kingdom.

Prime Minister Tom Thabane was forced to flee across the border to South Africa after what he has labelled a “military coup” on Saturday – a charge the armed forces deny.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern about the “military takeover” and called for respect for “democratic rule” ahead of the talks, according to his spokesman.

“This is a meeting called by South Africa… to discuss the latest developments in Lesotho,” foreign ministry spokesman Clayson Monyela told AFP.

The crisis in Lesotho began in the early hours of Saturday morning, when soldiers seized weapons from key police installations and surrounded the premier’s residence. READ: Lesotho military seize control of police HQ, jam radio stations.

Thabane fled across the border to South Africa before the troops arrived thanks to a tip-off. One police officer was killed and four more were injured in the clashes.

Intelligence officials told AFP Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli was behind the attacks, seemingly acting after the prime minister decided to remove his command.

Kamoli’s supporters are also accused of being behind the attempted assassination of his replacement, Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao, on Saturday morning.

Shortly before dawn Mahao’s redbrick bungalow on the outskirts of Maseru was sprayed repeatedly with automatic gunfire, as he, his wife and three sons aged five to 15 were at home.

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“At around four o’clock I heard some gunshots,” his wife Mamphanya Mahao told AFP, describing how she ushered her sons to a safe place in the house and waited in silence.

“The gunshots went on for about 30 minutes,” after which her husband fled the property. Only a family dog was killed.

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