A purported coup by the army has forced the prime minister of the southern African kingdom of Lesotho, Thomas Thabane, to flee to South Africa. Thabane told the BBC he feared for his life and would return to the country “as soon as I know I am not going to get killed.”
Thabane said the coup was “illegal” and was not backed by the people in the hilly country.
“I have been removed from control not by the people but by the armed forces, and that is illegal. I came into South Africa this morning and I will return as soon as my life is not in danger. I will not go back to Lesotho to get killed,” he said.
Reports from Lesotho say the capital, Maseru, is now calm after soldiers seized key buildings.
Lesotho has seen a series of military coups since independence in 1966.
Thabane has headed a unity government since but suspended parliament in June amid feuding in his coalition.
However, an army spokesman said the military “supports the democratically elected government of the day,” Reuters news agency reported.
Earlier, troops were seen on the streets of Maseru and there were reports of gunfire.
Radio stations were taken off air and phone lines were cut, although later reports suggested they were back working.
Quick Facts About Lesotho
Lesotho is known officially the Kingdom of Lesotho. It is landlocked and completely surrounded by South Africa. It is just over 30,000 km2 (11,583 sq mi) in size and has a population slightly over two million.Its capital and largest city is Maseru. The name Lesotho translates roughly into the land of the people who speak Sotho. About 40 per cent of the population lives below the international poverty line of $1.25 a day.
Sports Minister Thesele Maseribane told AFP news agency that troops had surrounded State House, a key government building.
Geographically, Lesotho is surrounded by South Africa on all sides.