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Soldiers fight it out in Lesotho capital

MASERU (Reuter) - At least two soldiers were killed and four civilians wounded yesterday in fighting between rival army factions in Lesotho, diplomatic and political sources said. Soldiers tried to storm a rival barracks, and traded artillery and mortar-fire across the capital, Maseru, in the most serious clashes in 10 days of sporadic fighting.

It was not clear why the two factions were fighting. 'People have been spending a lot of time trying to work out what is happening without success,' a diplomat said. The sources stressed it had nothing to do with support for, or opposition to, the Basotho Congress Party government, which took power after its election victory last March ended six years of military rule. Lesotho, which is encircled by South Africa, has suffered two military coups since independence from Britain in 1966 but the sources ruled out the possibility a third was under way.

Fighting broke out 10 days ago between about 600 men based at the Makonyani barracks, south of Maseru, and about 150 men based at the Defence Force headquarters barracks on its eastern outskirts. The most serious clashes yet erupted around dawn yesterday, with the two sides exchanging artillery and mortar fire. Some mortar bombs fell on Maseru. Two civilians were wounded in the stomach, one man was hit in the leg and a child in the head, government sources said. It was not clear how the two soldiers, both from the Makonyani unit, were killed. Their deaths brought the total toll in the unrest to five.