Lesotho police, military in early morning shootout

September 19, 2014 12:56 pm
File photo of members of the Lesotho military, which seized control of the tiny African kingdom's police headquarters and jammed radio stations and phones in the early hours Saturday, a government minister and member of the ruling coalition says/AFP
File photo of members of the Lesotho military/AFP

, MASERU, September 19- Police and military exchanged gunfire in Lesotho’s capital Maseru in the early hours of Friday, the latest spasm of violence to rock Africa’s tiny mountain kingdom.

Maseru Police District Commissioner Mofokeng Kolo told AFP that the shooting occurred at 3:00 am local time when soldiers suspiciously drove past the home of a police force commander, Khothatso Tsooana.

“If they were planning something, I’m not sure, Soldiers came close, and the police on guard followed them” for about two kilometres (1.2 miles).

“I don’t know yet who fired first,” he said, adding that there were no injuries as a result of the shootout.

On August 30 the tiny nation surrounded by South Africa was rocked by a coup attempt that saw the prime minister flee to its larger neighbour and the military attack several police stations, killing one officer and forcibly disarming police.

Police are seen as loyal to Prime Minister Tom Thabane while sections of the military are allied to his political foes.

The August violence was blamed on “renegade” Lesotho Defence Force commander Tlali Kamoli, who has refused to step down and has been blamed for a series of attacks on police and political rivals.

Kamoli — who is reportedly surrounded by a group of armed loyalists — faces accusations of mutiny and treason, but remains free.

Tensions heightened on Thursday with the funeral of Sub Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko, the police officer killed on August 30, who was reportedly guarding the police armoury that army soldiers then raided.

Some 2,000 police attended the emotional memorial service.

Southern Africa states have pressed Lesotho’s leaders to solve the crisis, but they remain deadlocked with Thabane saying he cannot meet demands to reopen parliament until Kamoli is brought under control.

Regional bloc SADC has called for early elections to be called and send South African police to the country to protect Thabane and his allies.


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