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Assassination attempt made on Lesotho military commander

It’s alleged gunmen attacked the Maseru home of Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao.

FILE: Thomas Thabane, leader of All Basotho Convention (ABC), greets supporters in Maseru on 27 May, 2012 a day after the people of Lesotho went to the polls in National Assembly Elections. Picture: AFP.

PRETORIA - There has been an attempted assassination of a top Lesotho military commander creating more confusion following an apparent coup on Saturday.

On Saturday reports surfaced that armed military forces had taken over public institutions including police stations, television and radio facilities that forced the prime minister to flee to South Africa.

District Police Commissioner Mofokeng Kolo on Sunday said gunmen attacked the Maseru home of Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao this morning.

Soldiers are also reported to have raided Prime Minister Thomas Thabane's home in the process.

The pre-dawn attack was reportedly unsuccessful, killing only a dog, but Mahao's whereabouts are unknown.

Mahao had been appointed head of the Lesotho Defence Force by Thabane shortly before he fled to South Africa.

South Africa has condemned the incident, saying it has all the hallmarks of a coup. The Lesotho military has denied that there was an attempted coup.

"It is a military coup because it is led by the military. And the military are outside the instructions of the commander in chief, who is myself," Thabane told South Africa's ENCA TV by telephone.

The South African International Relations Department says a Southern African Development Community (SADC) meeting is expected to be held within the next 24 hours to discuss the crisis.

Department spokesperson Clayson Monyela says "The chairperson of the SADC organ on politics and defence is seized with the matter of Lesotho and developments thereof. We are a convening a meeting of the organ."

THABANE ESCAPES TO SOUTH AFRICA

Thabane told the BBC he had fled to neighbouring South Africa. "I will return as soon as my life is not in danger," he said. His precise location was not immediately known.

Minister of Communications Selibe Mochoboroane says constitutionally, in the absence of the prime minister, the deputy prime minister takes the reins. Mothetjoa Metsing has since taken charge of the government.

Monyela says South Africa's intervention in Lesotho is not out of the ordinary as the same would be done for any of the SADC affiliated nations.

"Our role will be central to finding a lasting solution to the developments in Lesotho and in the entire region including the DRC, Madagascar and other places where there is a need for a return to constitutional normalcy."

TENSION BETWEEN THABANE AND METSING

Relations have been stormy between Thabane's All Basotho Convention (ABC) party and Metsing's Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) group, which formed a coalition with another party after elections in 2012.

Thabane dissolved parliament in June to avoid a no-confidence vote against him amid feuding among the ruling parties in the mountainous state of two million people, encircled by South Africa. Metsing later said he would to form a new coalition that would oust Thabane.

Diplomats in Maseru said the army was largely seen as loyal to the deputy prime minister, while the police force largely supported the prime minister.

The ANC says Lesotho's defence force should stand down and allow the democratic government to do its job.

ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa says the party will support the South African government's intervention.

"Our government will continue to support efforts to restore stability and order in that country."

Video: SA won't tolerate Lesotho coup.

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