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Seven Held After Foiled Bid to Kill Lesotho Prime Minister
Two South Africans are among seven heavily armed men arrested in South Africa in connection with the attempted assassination of Lesotho Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili in a foiled coup.

The pair, who were arrested in the Free State on Thursday, were caught after Lesotho armed forces fought off heavily armed groups in fierce gun battles in the capital, Maseru, early on Wednesday.

The seven, who are said to have been caught with numerous heavy calibre weapons, are believed to have been part of a 16-man team, which includes Mozambican nationals who were trying to overthrow the Lesotho government and apparently establish a new political order.
The group launched their attack on the presidential residence soon after they had stormed a military barracks on the outskirts of Maseru where they captured guns and armoured vehicles and kidnapped Lesotho soldiers.

Those involved are believed to have had paramilitary training, with several rumoured to have been part of the former 32 Battalion of the SADF.

Police crime intelligence sources said SAPS and SANDF members, who were deployed with helicopters, were reacting to information about the pending escape and set themselves up at strategic points along the border to catch the first two suspects on Wednesday morning.

The remaining five, including a man who accidentally shot himself, apparently when he dropped his gun while fleeing, were caught on Wednesday night and on Thursday morning.

National police spokesperson Director Sally de Beer said the arrests had been carried out in collaboration with their Lesotho counterparts. She said six of the suspects were being detained at an undisclosed facility, while the wounded man, who was shot in the stomach, was in a South African hospital under tight police guard.

While De Beer declined to say how he was shot, she said no South African or Lesotho forces had been involved in his shooting.

She said the two South Africans were arrested on Wednesday morning and four Mozambicans on Wednesday night.

"Yesterday one more suspect was arrested," she said, but declined to say where the suspects were caught or what weapons were found in their possession.

She said the arrests were made by a team from the SAPS borderline policing unit, organised crime unit and crime intelligence unit, along with the SANDF which had played a vital role in the swift operation.

De Beer confirmed that at least two of the seven were South Africans while four were Mozambicans. At this stage, the nationality of the wounded man is unknown.

"Intensive investigations are under way as part of the joint operation between Lesotho and South African forces to catch the remaining suspects.

"Depending on whether the men have committed crimes in South Africa they could also face charges here," she said, adding that it was not known when the men would be extradited to Lesotho.

She said charges against the men were still being formulated.

Maseru resident Clelia Cbarbadoroe told the Pretoria News by phone that the capital was calm last night and no curfew had been implemented.

"Besides being told to go home early, everything is normal with taxis and people still moving around the city.

"All that we have been told is that those involved were dressed in military uniforms and were from South Africa and Mozambique. We do not know more than that," she said.

President Kgalema Motlanthe, who is the SADC chairman, condemned the attack and said such acts had no place in the region.

    • This article was originally published on page 3 of Pretoria News on April 24, 2009
Tags:Lesotho Prime Minister
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