MASERU, Lesotho — Lesotho’s military commander was killed Tuesday in a gunfight with two rival officers who also died, the defense minister of the tiny southern African nation said.
Defense Minister Sentje Lebona confirmed the death of Lt. Gen. Khoantle Motsomotso in a resurgence of the political instability that has plagued Lesotho.
Witnesses said the gunfight happened after the two officers forced their way into Motsomotso’s office at a military barracks.
Lesotho has been beset by power struggles and concerns about military interference in politics. The country has seen a number of high-profile assassinations, including the 2015 killing of a former army chief.
Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s party won elections in June, returning him to power three years after he fled Lesotho to neighboring South Africa because of fears he was an assassination target.
Thabane’s estranged wife, Lipolela Alice Thabane, was shot dead two days before he took the oath of office in June in what many supporters believed was an effort to intimidate the new governing coalition.
The military, seen as supportive of Thomas Thabane’s rival, former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, has pledged to respect democratic rule.
Thabane took office vowing to stem what he called a “downward spiral of lawlessness” while promoting human rights as well as political and security-related reforms. He said alleviating poverty through economic growth was another priority. Lesotho has high rates of both poverty and HIV infection.