/ 19 June 2007

Curfew imposed in Lesotho following attacks

An indefinite curfew has been imposed in Lesotho’s capital, Maseru, following a series of attacks by gunmen targeting senior political figures and their bodyguards, police said on Tuesday.

”The announcement follows a series of attacks made on ministers and their bodyguards since June 11,” national police spokesperson Inspector Pheello Mphana said.

”About six ministerial bodyguards were attacked and disarmed by unknown gunmen and this has affected security in the country,” he added.

The spokesperson said the attacks were all believed to be politically motivated, without giving further details.

Political tensions in the small mountainous Southern African kingdom have been growing steadily since elections were held in February, with opposition parties contesting the allocation of parliamentary seats.

Mphana said the house of the minister of communications had been shot at three times, while opposition leader Tom Thabane’s home was also targeted by gunmen last Thursday.

No one has so far been injured in any of the shooting incidents, said Mphana.

”The curfew was announced on Friday. Once the situation changes, it will be revoked,” he added.

Under the terms of the curfew, anyone moving around the capital between 6pm and 6am without a permit faces arrest.

Lesotho’s Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili was due to hold talks later in the day in Cape Town with South African President Thabo Mbeki.

The kingdom, one of the smallest and most impoverished countries on the continent, is entirely surrounded by South Africa.

Violence, which erupted in Lesotho following a dispute over the 1998 elections and during which large parts of Maseru were torched, was only quashed with the intervention of troops from South Africa and Botswana.

The lead-up to February’s elections was also marred by violence with a Dutch charity worker killed in an attack by unknown gunmen on the house of the country’s trade and industry minister. — AFP