THE Ha Abia home of Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) Commissioner, Khothatso Tšooana was attacked by gunmen on Friday morning.
The attack, which was confirmed by LMPS Spokesperson, Lebona Mohloboli, took place at around 2am, and was allegedly carried out by assailants in three Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) vehicles. According to Senior Inspector Mohloboli, there was a “serious exchange of gunfire” between the attackers and Commissioner Tšooana’s LMPS Special Operations Unit (SOU) guards.
Senior Inspector Mohloboli on Friday told the Sunday Express: “The home of the Commissioner of Police (COMPOL) Khothatso Tšooana in Tšieeng village, Ha Abia, was attacked by people who were driving three cars with Lesotho Defence Force registration numbers. The attack happened at around 2am today, Friday 19 September 2014, and luckily, no one was injured in the assault; there was only damage to the COMPOL’s home.
“The three vehicles ferrying the attackers were a truck, a sedan and a minibus, and when they arrived at COMPOL Tšooana’s residence, the occupants started shooting at the SOU details who were on duty.
“There was a serious gun-battle between the attackers and SOU personnel. Because of the serious resistance by the SOU guards, the attackers eventually drove away at speed and investigations are continuing as to the motive of the assault.”
Senior Inspector Mohloboli said the South African Police Service (SAPS) officers, who have been providing security to Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and some government officials, among them COMPOL Tšooana, since some LDF members stormed three Maseru police stations on the morning of 30 August 2014, were not at the commissioner’s residence when the attack took place.
Dr Thabane, COMPOL Tšooana, Sports Minister Thesele ‘Maseribane, and several other senior government officials and some members of the All Basotho Convention (ABC), fled to South Africa on the eve and day of the LDF raids on Maseru Central, Police Headquarters and Ha Mabote Police Station, as they feared for their lives. Dr Thabane has since called the 30 August raids on the police stations an attempted coup.
The premier, Chief ‘Maseribane and COMPOL Tšooana returned to Lesotho on 3 September under SAPS guard, and the South Africans still provide security to the three officials.
However, Senior Inspector Mohloboli said the SAPS officers were not around when COMPOL Tšooana’s home was attacked.
“The SAPS officers are the COMPOL’s bodyguards when he is moving around; they don’t guard his residence so they were not around when the gunmen attacked,” Senior Inspector Mohloboli said.
Meanwhile, this was the second assault on the commissioner’s residence after a similar attack by unknown gunmen on the morning of 27 January 2014. No one has been arrested in relation to the January attack.
On his part, LDF Spokesperson, Major Ntlele Ntoi on Friday issued a statement in which he said an army vehicle was attacked by the police at almost the same time that COMPOL Tšooana’s home came under fire.
According to the statement, the vehicle was heading towards Khubelu village to collect some LDF staff between 3:30am and 4am, when it was attacked by the police.
“A Lesotho Mounted Police Service quantum vehicle followed an LDF car and flicked its lights in an attempt to stop it. When the LDF driver realised the attempt, he stopped the vehicle and immediately heard gunshots from the LMPS car, which were directed at them.
“The LDF officers who were with the driver had to take measures and defend themselves and immediately, their attackers drove away. During the attack, none of the soldiers was injured despite the damaged vehicle.
“The LDF command is aware that there are rabble-rousers intending to destroy peace and stability in this country, as well as tarnishing the LDF’s reputation to influence international military intervention in Lesotho, claiming that there is instability in this country.
“The LDF command assures the nation that the military would not get involved or trapped by these rabble-rousers. The LDF is loyal to the constitution and LDF Act of 1996 and urges Basotho to be confident that it will protect the country.”
Efforts to get a comment from Major Ntoi about the attack on COMPOL Tšooana’s home were fruitless as his mobile phone rang unanswered.