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Lesotho's prime minister returns to capital, police official says

South African police and military are protecting Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane in the nation's capital.

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Soldiers atop a military vehicle are driven through the capital of Lesotho Tuesday. Sept 2, 2014.

AP

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A police official says Lesotho's prime minister has returned home safely after military actions forced him to flee the mountainous kingdom over the weekend.

Assistant Police Commissioner Lehloka Maphatsoe said Wednesday that South African police and defense forces are in the capital, Maseru, for Prime Minister Thomas Thabane's personal security. He said the deputy prime minister and others who were in South Africa for talks have also returned.

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Lesotho's crisis started Saturday when the military disarmed police stations. Radios were also jammed in what the prime minister said was a coup attempt in the country of 2 million people.

Police in Lesotho were told to abandon their posts and not wear uniforms to avoid being targeted in attacks in the kingdom's continuing power vacuum, an official said Tuesday.

At least one policeman was killed when the military disarmed police stations on Saturday. The military said they merely acted on information that police would be arming demonstrators in a political protest.

The prime minister fled to South Africa, where he met with regional leaders.

"Police fear for their lives because we have intelligence that there will be an attack while we are in stations on duty," said Maphatsoe. Police stations will not offer services to the population because of the likelihood of attacks on officers, he added.

There was an alleged attack by military on a police training camp late Monday, Maphatsoe said, though he was still trying to confirm the details.

Political tensions have been high since June when the prime minister suspended parliament to dodge a vote of no confidence.

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The southern African regional body is sending an envoy and an observer team to Lesotho to help restore stability.

Maphatsoe said the public will later be addressed on the way forward.