Lesotho PM Thomas Thabane's bodyguards shot

Police members riding on the back of a van carrying the body of a bystander who was killed during a shootout with PM's bodyguards After the shooting the police rushed to the scene in the capital, Maseru

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Two soldiers who warned Lesotho's prime minister about last year's alleged coup attempt have been shot and wounded and another man killed, officials say.

The guards were not with Thomas Thabane at the time they were shot outside the gates of the presidential palace.

The shootings come ahead of elections later this month intended to resolve the crisis between rival parties in the coalition government.

The power struggle is believed to have polarised Lesotho's security forces.

"We're still trying to figure out the motives. My gut feeling is that what's happening now is to frustrate the election process," an unnamed senior adviser to Mr Thabane told the AFP agency.

The prime minister's press secretary, Thabo Thakalekoala, told the Associated Press news agency that the two officers in Mr Thabane's security detail had been targeted by "renegade" soldiers bent on destabilising the small mountainous nation, which is surrounded by South Africa, ahead of the polls.

The identity of the man killed in the crossfire on Sunday in the capital, Maseru, is not clear. Some reports say he was a private security guard.

'Mercenaries'

Regional mediators organised for the elections to be brought forward by two years in an effort to end the dispute which erupted on 30 August 2014.

Mr Thabane, 75, was allegedly tipped off about the coup attempt on the morning of the planned takeover and fled to safety across the border before his official residence was raided by soldiers.

Lesotho Prime Minister at The EU-Africa summit in Brussels 3 April 2014 Prime Minister Thomas Thabane is alleged to have been tipped off about the coup attempt and fled to South Africa

BBC Africa's Milton Nkosi says the failed military takeover exposed friction between the defence forces and the police, pushing the country to the brink of a full-blown conflict.

Although tensions have eased, police say they are still investigating recent claims that foreign "mercenaries" entered Lesotho to assassinate Mr Thabane and other leaders.

During the power struggle last year, Mr Thabane was reportedly supported by the police while Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing was said to have the loyalty of the army.

Three top security leaders were placed on leave of absence after the trouble in August.

The country has experienced several coups since independence in 1966.

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