Home NewsLocal LDF raids Famo leader’s village 

LDF raids Famo leader’s village 

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  • as they launch operation to search and seize illegal firearms 
  • raid comes in the wake of the murder of five family members in Famo gang violence 

Staff Reporter 

THE Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) raided the homestead ofTerene ea Khosi Mokata leader, TSepiso “Mosotho” Radebe, in Liphakoeng on Thursday but failed to arrest him. 

The soldiers ransacked the entire Liphakoeng Village allegedly beating and torturing village men while demanding that they produce illegal firearms. 

They arrested an undisclosed number of village men who remain in police custody. 

The army says it was executing its Operation Puff adder to remove illegal firearms being used to kill people in communities. 

The raid came in the wake of the brutal killing of six people – including five from one family – in the area. The killings that once again stunned the nation appear to have been revenge killings between two Famo groups, Mosotho’s Terene and Liala Mabatha led by a man nicknamed Ma Dan. 

The army’s Operation Puff adder is a belated effort to stem the tide of crime as the Famo gangs have become a law unto themselves. Only time will tell if it will succeed in reining in the Famo violence which has claimed thousands of lives over the years. 

A puff adder (Marabe in Sesotho) is a highly venomous snake, known as an ambush hunter, that coils up into a striking position and await its prey. It is found in rocky parts of the country, including Liphakoeng. 

Liphakoeng area chief, Mathikhoane Mathealira, claimed the soldiers ordered the men in Liphakoeng to produce Mosotho while beating them up. Mosotho could not be found. It is not clear whether or not he was in the village at the time of the raid. 

Chieftainess Mathealira said she was out of town when the raid happened. 

However, she said her assistant had reported to her that in the wee hours of Thursday morning, an LDF battalion raided her village and instructed everyone to vacate their houses and placed them at one open space. She said she was told that her people had been grouped in categories based on their age and gender, with men put on one side and women on the other side. 

“I was also told that the soldiers went to some place with the men and demanded that they reveal Mosotho’s whereabouts. They were then whipped brutally while being told they would have to produce Mosotho, whether they liked it or not” she said. 

She claimed the soldiers assaulted her community members under the guise of searching for guns when in actual fact they wanted Mosotho whom she said they did not find despite searching everywhere in the village. 

She said Mosotho’s house and bar were searched and no weapons were found in either. 

“They then seized his (Toyota) Fortuner which they said they were going to inspect and alcohol from his bar which they also said was acquired illegally. 

“During the search operation (of the whole village), the soldiers found about five firearms from one boy who lives in the village, but does not work with Mosotho,” she said. 

She said women and children were not hurt but made to sing and do some push ups until the soldiers left. 

The raid follows the past weekend mass murder in Leribe. Two people from Mosotho’s Terene group were shot that Saturday, one of them being his brother-in-law who sustained serious injuries and is under treatment in hospital. The other Terene member died on the spot. Mosotho said the two were shot during an attack on his followers as they buried their member whom he claimed had been killed in South Africa, supposedly by another Famo gang. The burial ceremony was in Liphakoeng. 

Just about six hours after the Liphakoeng incident, five family members of a rival gang member were gunned down in a suspected revenge killing in Fobane village, about 15 kilometres from Mosotho’s Liphakoeng village. 

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Express’s sister paper, the Lesotho Times, Mosotho said he could not rule out that members of his Terene group could have been involved in killing the five family members in revenge. He expressed frustration at the failure of security agencies to protect members of his group whom he said had been targeted first by members of the Liala Mabatha?gang. 

Mosotho also accused the heads of national security agencies of failing to act on their officers allegedly partaking inFamo?issues, despite being furnished with evidence regarding their involvement in fuelling rivalries in the Famo gangs. 

He accused the police and army of taking sides in Famo disputes, claiming that the armed forces had opted to attend the Fobane shooting, before they could attend to the incident in his Liphakoeng village which had been reported first. 

Mosotho blamed a Military Intelligence (MI) official and a police officer from Police Headquarters for fuelling disputes between his Terene group and the rival Liala Mabatha?Famo gang. He said instead of mediating to bring peace between the two groups, these two had sided with the?Liala Mabatha gang. 

While he had refrained from mentioning names, the other leader of his?Terene?group, Sarele “Lehlanya” Sello, dropped a bombshell during an interview with a local radio station, T?enolo FM,?on Friday by identifying?the MI officer as one Captain Senoamali Phakisi. Lehlanya appeared to suggest that Captain Phakisi had been playing both sides to gain personal benefits. 

“I feed that Senoamali Phakisi. We paid M20 000 towards his child’s schools fees. He was also given M40 000 when he demanded we buy him a Fortuner. We sent him money via Shoprite. Now he demanded M100 000 which we could not give him, but he has been given that money by that other side (Liala Mabatha),” Lehlanya said. 

Lehlanya said he and Mosotho had approached soldiers at Mokota-koti barracks to try and get them to mediate differences between theTerene and Liala Mabatha groups. The effort had been thwarted by Capt Phakisi because he was double dipping for his self-aggrandisement, Lehlanya claimed. 

“We need a commission of enquiry into?Famo?issues so that the truth would be revealed,” he said. 

The Famo groups fight for dominance in their respective areas of influence. 

Contacted for comment, the LDF spokesperson, Lieutenant Colonel Sakeng Lekola, told the Sunday Express they had heard for the first time about the allegations levelled against Capt Phakisi when Lehlanya spoke on radio. 

Lt. Col Lekola said they were not aware Capt Phakisi was involved with Famo gangs. 

He asked why the gang members, who claim to have worked with Capt Phakisi, had not reported the matter a long time ago and were only revealing it now. 

He encouraged them to report the matter to the LDF with evidence so that the army can deal with the issue. 

“I always say, we have no place for criminals in the LDF. Those people should officially report this matter to the LDF and action will be taken,” he said. 

He also confirmed that soldiers had indeed raided Liphakoeng village. 

He said their intelligence reports had revealed that there were people in Liphakoeng who possessed illegal firearms and the LDF went there to collect them. He said they were able to collect a number of illegal firearms and ammunition whose exact number he could not reveal because the operation was still ongoing. 

Lt. Col Sakeng said the operation was done together with Peka police and arrested suspects were in Peka Police custody. He could not reveal the number of those arrested. 

He said the LDF’s responsibility was to protect Lesotho and Basotho and the raid was in line with their mandate. 

“Lesotho law does not allow anyone to have a firearm without a licence. It is our responsibility to prevent crime and terrorism,” Lt Col Sakeng said. 

He said he national constitution and the LDF Act 1996 mandated them to combat crime in the country. They had therefore acted within their mandate in raiding Liphakoeng village. 

He appealed to Basotho to report people possessing illegal firearms and those who have illegal firearms to voluntarily surrender them to the LDF or police stations across the country. 

However corrupt police officers at these police stations are reportedly stealing their service firearms and selling them to the Famo gangs, fuelling their rampant criminality. 

Lt Col Sakeng said community members who failed to report those possessing illegal firearms were “as much of criminals as those who do crime”. 

He however did not respond to specific questions about the alleged beatings and torturing of Liphakoeng men by the soldiers. 

Meanwhile, the police issued a statement on their Facebook page on Friday afternoon stating that they had confiscated one?.38 pistol and ammunition for various pistol types in Liphakoeng. They had recovered 46 bullets for 9mm pistol, 15 for 7.65 pistol, nine for .45 pistol and five for a .38 pistol, the statement said. 

 

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