Soldiers attacked ahead of Lesotho’s election
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Two soldiers have been wounded and a private security guard killed during a shooting outside the presidential palace gates in Lesotho, adding to an already tense political climate ahead of elections later this month, an official said Monday.
The two soldiers were attacked on Sunday by “renegade” soldiers who wanted to destabilize Lesotho ahead of the Feb. 28 elections, Thabo Thakalekoala, the prime minister’s press secretary said.
The two soldiers were among those who had warned Prime Minister Thomas Thabane of an alleged coup in the tiny southern African kingdom last year, said Thakalekoala. They had not returned to the military barracks since last year, out of fear of reprisals from a faction of soldiers who supported Thabane’s removal.
“If we go to elections with the soldiers running amok, doing what they want to do, the (Southern African Development Community) will have to rethink this issue,” he said, referring to the 15-nation regional body which has set up an observer mission in the country following unrest last year.
Last year, Thabane fled to South Africa, saying he was the target of an alleged coup plot, during which a police officer was killed in a shootout with military officers. Thabane returned to Lesotho along with the observer mission.
One of the soldiers was rescued by the South African police service, in the country as part of the observer mission, and taken to neighboring South Africa for medical care, said Thakalekoala. The other soldier was taken to a military hospital by the very soldiers who staged the attack, the press secretary said.
Lesotho is a southern African kingdom with a democratically elected parliament. Elections were set two years earlier after unrest in the country saw tension between factions in the police and the military and the dissolution of parliament.