Lesotho’s military seized control of the tiny African kingdom’s police headquarters and jammed radio stations and phones in the early hours on Saturday, a government minister and member of the ruling coalition said.
“The armed forces, the special forces of Lesotho, have taken the headquarters of the police,” sports minister and leader of the Basotho National Party Thesele Maseribane said, describing a possible coup attempt in the small nation located in eastern South Africa.
But he insisted Prime Minister Tom Thabane’s government was still in control and that the premier was “fine”.
“The prime minister and myself, (we are) still the coalition government. The prime minister is still in power,” he said, declining to say where the premier was.
“At four o’clock this morning (0200GMT) they were driving around the residence of the prime minister and my residence,” he said.
“There have been some gunfighting since 4 (am) local time up until 7 or 8.”
Maseribane said he fled hours earlier after being warned of an impending coup.
“The commander said he was looking for me, the prime minister and the deputy minster to take us to the king. In our country that means a coup,” he added.
“There’s still a lot of danger. People who have arms are running around Maseru.”
He had no information about casualties.
“They’ve jammed phones, they have jammed everything,” he added.
But users of the social networking site Twitter disputed this, saying they were still able to post updates.
Maseribane accused Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, leader of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) of involvement in the move to seize power.
“There is some intelligence that he is part,” he said.
The LCD earlier threatened to form a new government. But Communications Minister Selibe Mochoboroane, an LCD member, denied any knowledge of what was happening in the capital. “I’ve just heard now,” he said, speaking from the countryside.
The government secretary was unreachable for comment.
A shaky coalition has governed the kingdom, which is entirely surrounded by South Africa, since elections two years ago.