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Lesotho's army chief killed in gunfight at barracks - officials

The commander of Lesotho's defense forces has been shot dead by two rival officers, officials said. The killing has prompted fears of a resurgence of political instability in the southern African nation.

Lt. Gen. Khoantle Motsomotso, the head of Lesotho's military was shot dead on Tuesday after two officers forced their way into his office at a military barracks, military officials said.

The two senior officers reportedly behind the attack were killed in the shoot-out as well, military officials who declined to be named told news agency AFP.

Read more: Lesotho: real freedom after 50 years of independence?

Defense Minister Sentje Lebona confirmed Motsomotso's death to the Associated Press. Heavily armed forces were seen patrolling the streets of the capital Maseru on Tuesday afternoon, reported news agency DPA.

Lesotho's Prime Minister Thomas Thabane casts his vote in Maseru, Lesotho (picture-alliance/AP Photo)

Lesotho's Prime Minister Thomas Thabane had been previously forced to flee after an attempted military coup in 2014

The spokesman of Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane's government declined to comment on reports that the prime minister had left for neighboring South Africa following the incident. Landlocked Lesotho only borders South Africa.

Read more: Wife of new Lesotho PM Tom Thabane is shot dead

Prime Minister  Thabane's party won a recent election in June, returning him to power three years after he fled the county following a failed military coup. Thabane's estranged wife was killed in June, days ahead of his inauguration.

Lesotho, a constitutional monarchy, is one of the world's poorest countries and has seen periods of political turbulence since 2014 putsch attempt. 

The small, mountainous country has seen a number of high-profile assassinations, including the 2015 murder of a former army chief.

rs/msh  (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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