A member of the Lesotho military stands guard in front of an armed personnel carrier at the entrance of the army barracks in Maseru, Lesotho.   Picture: REUTERS
A member of the Lesotho military stands guard in front of an armed personnel carrier at the entrance of the army barracks in Maseru, Lesotho. Picture: REUTERS

Maseru — Lesotho’s army commander was shot dead by rival officers at a military barracks on Tuesday, an official said, in an apparent assassination set to revive instability in the mountainous African kingdom.

The SABC reported that some senior Lesotho politicians had fled the country amid fears of a coup.

Col Tanki Mothae, the principal secretary for defence forces, confirmed the killing of Khoantle Motsomotso, who was commander of the Lesotho Defence Force, but provided no further details.

A news conference was scheduled to be held later in the day.

"The commander [Motsomotso] has been declared dead," a military official who declined to be named said, adding that two senior officers behind the attack had also been killed in the shoot-out.

The military official said the two senior officers were denied access to Motsomotso’s office by army guards.

"They attempted to forcefully enter, there was a shoot-out between the two, their companion who has since fled and the commander’s bodyguards," he said.

Lesotho has been through bouts of political turbulence since an attempted coup in 2014. It has been subject to several coups since gaining independence from Britain in 1966 and its last three elections — most recently in June — have failed to produce winners with clear majorities.

The wife of then Prime Minister Thomas Thabane was shot dead in June, two days before her husband’s inauguration, raising fears of another wave of political violence in the country.

A new coalition government took office in Lesotho in June under Thabane, who vowed to bring peace to the country that has been rocked by a series of political upheavals.

Thabane served as premier after the 2012 elections but was forced to flee to SA following an attempted military coup two years later.

In August 2014, soldiers led by sacked army chief Gen Tlali Kamoli seized control of police headquarters after Thabane had suspended parliament to avoid a no-confidence vote.

Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) party won snap elections on June 3 but failed to get an outright majority, leading it to negotiate joint rule with three other parties.

AFP/Reuters

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