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8 HURT IN LESOTHO WHILE PROTESTING GOVERNMENT BREAKUP

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Soldiers and police opened fire and wounded at least eight demonstrators Wednesday protesting in the Lesotho capital against the dissolution of the elected government and parliament by King Letsie III, witnesses said.

More than 2,000 protesters marched on the monarch's palace after an early morning broadcast in which he told the 1.6 million people of this mountainous nation he was dismissing the 16-month-old government of Prime Minister Ntsu Mokhehle."There has been some shooting. I counted eight people who have been wounded," said a witness.

The 34-year-old king, who replaced his father Moshoeshoe II in 1990, said in his broadcast he was also suspending part of the constitution and ordering fresh elections because people were dissatisfied with the government.

Mokhehle's Basutoland Congress Party (BCP) easily won elections in March 1993 that were this southern African country's first multiparty polls for 20 years.

Witnesses said that at first police and soldiers merely dispersed chanting BCP supporters. But protesters regrouped and handed over a petition demanding that Lesotho become a republic.