Eswatini’s prime minister has denied that King Mswati III has fled to South Africa following clashes between the security forces and demonstrators.
Pro-democracy protests intensified overnight in the country, formerly known as Swaziland, with government buildings, shops and trucks set alight.
The 53-year-old king, who came to the throne 35 years ago, rules by decree.
His critics accuse him, and his 15 wives, of leading a lavish lifestyle and treating opponents harshly.
His private plane was reported to have taken off from Eswatini, which is a landlocked country smaller than the US state of New Jersey, on Monday night.
But acting Prime Minister Themba Masuku appealed for calm in Africa’s last absolute monarchy, saying such reports were untrue.
“Following the false media reports circulating, I would like to take this opportunity to assure the emaSwati and the international community that His Majesty King Mswati III is in the country and continues to lead in working with the government to advance the kingdom’s goals,” his statement said.
The private Swazi News paper has been tweeting some scenes of the unrest, showing buildings on fire in Matsapha, an industrial town which witnessed much of the violence.