MASERU, Lesotho (AP) – A Dutch aid worker with the Clinton Foundation was shot to death at the house of Lesotho’s trade and industry minister, police said Saturday.

Samuella Jacobina Verwey, 36, her husband and two American aid workers arrived late Friday at Minister Mpho Malie’s house. As they left the car, heavy gunfire erupted, police spokesman Pheelo Mphana said.

The minister and his wife were in neighboring South Africa at the time. The whereabouts of the four guards at Malie’s residence were unknown. The aid workers were staying on the property.

Mphana said 24 AK-47 assault rifle shells were found at the scene of the shooting, but said police did not know a motive in the attack, which was similar to one against Lesotho Foreign Minister Monyane Moleleki earlier this year, when he was shot in the arm at his home. It is also similar to the one that claimed the life of a popular politician and member of Lesotho’s parliament, Bereng Sekhonyana, in August.

The attack on Malie’s house came just hours after the head of state of Lesotho, King Letsie III, announced the dissolution of the country’s sixth parliament to pave the way for general elections in February, three months earlier than scheduled.

Along with Foreign Minister Moleleki, Malie is seen as a major contender for the leadership of the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy after the current leader, Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, quits.

Lesotho has endured repeated political violence since it gained independence from Britain in 1966, and it suffered heavily from its dependence on neighboring South Africa under apartheid. There was a military coup in 1986 and Letsie III was installed as king by the army in 1987 after his father was forced into exile. After more upheavals, troops from South Africa and Botswana briefly occupied the capital in 1998 and 1999, allegedly to try to restore order.

The last elections in 2002 were generally deemed the fairest to date. But the benefits of democracy have been blunted by rampant poverty and one of the world’s highest AIDS rates. The Clinton Foundation runs HIV/AIDS programs in the poor mountain kingdom.

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