Bandits tricked

‘Mozambican’s promised World Cup jobs’

MASERU — Some of the attackers involved in the failed assassination attempt against Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili were Mozambican ex-soldiers who were duped into taking up “security” jobs in South Africa.

The four mercenaries who were killed after the attack on Mosisili’s official residence in Maseru on April 22 were all Mozambican nationals, a senior Mozambican diplomat confirmed this week.

Mozambique’s High Commissioner to South Africa, Fernando Fazenda, said the four were part of about 30 Mozambicans who had been lured to South Africa with the promise of securing jobs as security guards on 2010 World Cup construction sites.

South Africa hosts the football World Cup next year and a lot of construction is taking place in the country in preparation for the event.

Once in South Africa, the Mozambicans — together with a group of South African and Lesotho nationals — were taken to a camp near the border with Lesotho where they were informed of their mission, Fazenda told a press conference in Maputo on Monday.

“They were told not to worry as the mission was being carried out in conjunction with Lesotho defence and security forces. They were given firearms and a vehicle that took them to the operation site,” Fazenda was quoted as saying.

Fazenda, like the government of Lesotho, referred to the attack as a “failed coup attempt”.

He did not mention the suspected mastermind of the mission.

A group of heavily armed men, believed to have been on a mission to overthrow Mosisili’s government, stormed State House in the early hours of April 22 and opened fire at the prime minister’s residence.

Mosisili was in State House at the time of the attack, fuelling suspicions the mercenaries wanted to kill him.

Alert soldiers on guard immediately retaliated.

A fierce exchange of gunfire ensued and Lesotho’s security forces sprung into action to thwart the attackers.

Four of the mercenaries were killed.

Fazenda said the bodies of the four deceased mercenaries would be repatriated to Mozambique following a request by their relatives.

A further five Mozambicans are in prison awaiting trial over the attack, four of them in South Africa and one in Lesotho.

The whereabouts of the other Mozambicans is not known, according to Fazenda.

It was not clear how many South Africans and Basotho were involved and how many, if any, had been arrested.

However, former Lesotho soldier Makotoko Lerotholi, alias Mashai, has been named as one of the chief suspects.

Mashai, who fled Lesotho after he was linked to post-2007 election disturbances in the country, was arrested in South Africa but is out on bail after the government botched efforts to extradite him.

Last week six suspects appeared in the Bloemfontein Regional Court over the attempted assassination of Mosisili.

The matter was postponed to August 25 in the same court for further investigation.

The men who appeared in the Bloemfontein court were arrested in the Free State hours after the attack in Maseru.

The suspects arrested in the Free State would, like Mashai, also be subject to the extradition process.

Another suspect, Jessie Ramatakane, 60, appeared in the Bethlehem Magistrate’s Court last Monday in connection with the case.

The case was also postponed to August 25.

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