Soldiers in the tiny southern African nation of Lesotho ousted military ruler Maj. Gen. Justin Lekhanya Tuesday in a bloodless coup five years after the autocratic leader seized power, a British official in Lesotho said.

Large numbers of heavily armed troops surrounded Lekhanya's palace in the capital Maseru early Tuesday morning, but no shots were fired, the British High Commission official said by telephone.Lekhanya read his resignation in a radio broadcast to residents of his mountainous country, which is the size of Maryland and is surrounded by South Africa. The British diplomat, who requested anonymity, said a later broadcast announced the former leader had been arrested.