Lesotho army, police in fresh shootout, 2 cops wounded

Maseru (Lesotho) (AFP) - Two policemen in Lesotho were wounded Tuesday night during a shootout between the force and the military, police said, in the latest fall-out from an attempted coup a month ago.

Lesotho Mounted Police Service spokesman Lebona Mohloboli confirmed to AFP that "two police officers (were) shot and injured."

The gunfire exchange took place on the outskirts of Maseru and outside the neighbouring houses of a senior government official and a military officer who is reportedly wanted in connection with the attempted coup.

Details were still sketchy on Wednesday.

"We're still trying to figure out exactly what happened," Tumisang Mosotho, a senior adviser to Prime Minister Tom Thabane told AFP.

Lesotho, which is surrounded by South Africa, was rocked by an attempted coup on August 30 that has left relations between police and the armed forces on a knife-edge.

Government secretary Moahloli Mphaka, claiming he was the target of Tuesday's attack, told South Africa's state broadcaster that he fled his home when soldiers exchanged shots with the police officers guarding his house.

"I was able to escape and hide," he told SABC.

His neighbour is a military guard officer for deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, whom police are probing for "high treason" over his alleged role in the botched August 30 putsch.

Around two streets away from the scene of the shooting, an AFP correspondent saw two automatic weapons lying on the ground besides a civilian vehicle that had its windows shattered.

Residents in the neighbourhood described the exchange of gunfire as "terrifying".

"It went on for an hour, with too many gunshots to count. First pistols, then automatic weapons that went rat-a-tat-tat-tat," said one resident who cowered with his wife in their home.

Lesotho military and police were scouring the crime scene Wednesday, while police observers from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) took photos and recreated the scene.

Dozens of foreign police officers from South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe are in the country as part of SADC peace efforts.

Last month's attempted seizure of power has been blamed on "renegade" Lesotho Defence Force commander Tlali Kamoli, who has refused to step down from the military and been accused of a series of attacks on police and political rivals.

Tuesday's shooting was also a stark reminder to South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is currently in Maseru to mediate a political resolution of the crisis, on behalf of the SADC.

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