All publications of LS-31070 . Maseru , Lesotho

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Lesotho’s former prime minister Thomas Thabane paid a team of hitmen from a notorious local gang a down payment of more than $20,000 to kill his estranged wife, according to police statements.

The cash was alleged to be the first instalment of a much larger sum – approximately $180,000 – that was agreed as a fee for the murder three years ago.

It is the latest twist in a long-running crisis that some observers have described as a “game of thrones” in the poor mountainous kingdom in southern Africa.

Thabane was forced to resign last month. The political veteran, 80, has denied any involvement in the death of Lipolelo Thabane, who was shot several times at close range as she sat in a car outside her home in the Lesotho capital, Maseru, two days before her husband’s inauguration.


Lipolelo Thabane. Photograph: China TV

Lipolelo, 58, had reportedly refused a divorce and won a court battle to retain her privileges as first lady until any formal separation.

Thabane remarried two months after the murder. His second wife, 42-year-old Maesaiah, became first lady when Thabane became prime minister. She has been charged with murder and is currently in custody.

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