MASERU — Five men aged between 30 and 40 were killed in a fire exchange with the police in Mafeteng last week.
Another man was shot in the crossfire.
The men were part of a suspected gang wanted by the police for murder, car theft and armed robbery.
Police spokesperson Masupha Masupha said the police were on a routine surveillance operation when they saw the gang driving in a metallic green Volkswagen and trailed them.
Their car had South African registration numbers.
Masupha said on realising that they were being followed by the police the men reacted by firing at the police.
“When police followed them they started shooting at the police then the police shot back in defence,” Masupha said.
“The men deserted their car at Ha-Lepolesa village where the shooting continued.”
All five were killed in a fierce gun battled that ensued at Ha-Lepolesa, Masupha said.
He said three of the dead men were South African nationals while the other two were Basotho from Mafeteng.
Masupha said during the fire exchange a motorist who was driving in a Ford Bantam was caught in the crossfire after he joined in the shooting.
It is however not clear if this man was part of the gang but Masupha said his car was using number plates for both Lesotho and South Africa.
This, he said, raised suspicion that the vehicle could have been hijacked from South Africa.
“The other man who was driving a Ford Bantam died on arrival at hospital. He was not identified but the police suspect he was also from Mafeteng.”
Masupha said the five-man gang was suspected to have robbed Group 4Security (G4S) and four other businesses in the past two years.
Police were still searching for these men.
The men were also driving stolen cars.
Meanwhile, two people were killed in crossfire on Good Friday in a gun battle between the police and some patrons at a Maputsoe bar.
Masupha said some people at Chobe Bar started firing at police officers who had come to close the bar as it was still open beyond the legal trading hours.
He said there were 190 people in the bar when the gun battle started.
“They all went into the bar to hide. When police officers went in they started shooting at the police and also threw bottles at the officers,” Masupha said.
“Police began shooting back in (self)-defence and two people died during that incident,” he said.
He said two men from Leribe and Maputsoe aged 32 and 34 were caught in the crossfire.
“Some of the people escaped through the back window.”
Police then searched the remaining patrons.
Masupha said one of the patrons was found with a gun in his pocket. “The man however told the police that he was sleeping during the shooting and when he woke up he found the gun in his pocket.”
Police also found some of the patrons with dangerous weapons that included knives.
Masupha said some of them were found with a chemical which police suspect to have been used to drug people during criminal activities.
“When the police asked them about it they said they were using the chemical to drug girls. The police have taken the chemical for laboratory tests.
“The owner will be charged with trading after legal hours and if he does not have a license he will be charged with trading without a license. He was asked to submit the licence yesterday,” he said.