60 Held in S. Africa Hijacking

Nuns, Schoolchildren Seized as They Travel to See Pope

MASERU, Lesotho--Guerrillas hijacked a bus yesterday carrying 60 nuns, schoolgirls and other people traveling to see Pope John Paul II, who was expected in this tiny mountain kingdom, diplomats and sources said.

Jervis Chavase, deputy high commissioner at the British Embassy, said he learned of the hijacking when the bus drove up and stopped in front of the diplomatic compound.

"A bus is parked outside the commission [embassy] and I believe the police have the situation in control," Chavase said at 1 a.m. today (7 p.m. EDT Tuesday.) He said the hijackers have "asked to come into the compound and we have refused to let them."

He said the bus arrived about 6 p.m..

Diplomatic sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the guerrillas are believed to be members of the Lesotho Liberation Army, which had been fighting the left-wing regime of Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan.


A nun at the Papal Visit Office, Sister Rita Brassard, said that the bus had come from the town of Quacha's Nek, which is in a remote area in the south of Lesotho, a mountain nation completely surrounded by South Africa.

She said the bus was carrying eight nuns, seven teen-age schoolgirls, six teachers and other pilgrims who had been picked up on the way to Maseru, the capital.

The bus was to have dropped the nuns at a convent outside the capital, but the vehicle never arrived, she said.

Police and soldiers put up roadblocks on streets leading to the British Embassy, which is next to police headquarters on a hill in Maseru.

Police have refused comment.

The pope was in Botswana yesterday and was expected in Lesotho today as part of a five-nation tour of southern Africa.

Lesotho, a nation of about 1.6 million people about the size of Maryland, is officially a constitutional monarchy but is ruled by a six-man military council in consultation with King Moshoeshoe II.

The former British colony achieved independence in 1966.

Recommended Articles