Lesotho editor in critical condition after shot in face

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A gunman's bullet has shattered the jaw of a newspaper editor in Lesotho, and the publisher faces defamation charges because of a column that satirized the military commander in the landlocked southern Africa country.

Lloyd Mutungamiri, editor of the Lesotho Times, was in critical condition after the shooting late Saturday outside his home in Lesotho's capital, Maseru, and doctors in neighboring South Africa have conducted facial surgery, publisher Basildon Peta said in a telephone interview Thursday.

While authorities have not identified any suspects or made arrests, the attack came amid longtime tensions in Lesotho, where the country's former army chief was fatally shot last year and regional mediators recommended that the current military chief, Lt. Gen. Tlali Kamoli, be dismissed as part of efforts to reduce concerns about military interference in politics.

Lesotho's coalition government is run by Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, who took office after 2015 elections.

Last month, police in Lesotho questioned Mutungamiri after the Lesotho Times published two reports that allegedly defamed Kamoli.

Peta, the publisher, was charged with defamation after a Lesotho Times column commented on Kamoli's perceived influence in politics with a joke about a hypothetical "invasion" of a Cabinet meeting, according to the newspaper.

Peta, currently in South Africa, said he is due in court on July 19 but has asked his lawyers to try to postpone the hearing because of safety concerns. He said he wants a robust police investigation of Mutungamiri's shooting as well as government guarantees of free expression.

"We are not scared to argue the case and to defend ourselves," Peta said.

Mutungamiri is also editor of Lesotho's Sunday Express, which last month quoted the prime minister, Mosisili, as dismissing allegations that the military commander is meddling in politics.