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South African military to withdraw troops in CAR

Thursday - 4/4/2013, 11:04am  ET

A mourner breaks down during a memorial service for 13 South African soldiers killed in Central African Republic last week, at an air force base in Pretoria, South Africa, Tuesday, April 2, 2013. The service took place amid strident debate about why the troops were deployed and accusations that they were sent to protect business interests of a company allied to the ruling African National Congress , charges which president Jacob Zuma denied. (AP Photo)

Associated Press

JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- South Africa's military said Thursday it will withdraw its troops from Central African Republic, where 13 South African soldiers died in a battle with rebels in March.

Brig. Gen. Xolani Mabanga, a military spokesman, said the troops will pull out in line with a decision by South Africa's political leadership. He declined to say how many South African soldiers remained in Central African Republic and did not give a departure date.

South Africa's military union said earlier this week that most of the 200 South African troops who were there have already been withdrawn.

Meanwhile, a South African parliamentary committee on Thursday debated the military mission in Central African Republic amid questions about its role and the constitutional legality of the deployment.

Defense Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula acknowledged in remarks to the committee that South African troops were not prepared to deal with an attack, the South African Press Association reported.

"We were not equipped in a way that would be able to repel that kind of battle," she said.

Last month, about 200 South African soldiers fought a much larger group of rebels as they swept into the capital of Bangui and overthrew the president, Francois Bozize.

South African officials have said soldiers were sent to help train the army of Central African Republic as part of a bilateral defense agreement signed in 2007, and that additional troops were sent when the security situation deteriorated at the end of last year.

The government has denied allegations that troops were sent to protect the business interests of a company allied to South Africa's governing party, the African National Congress.

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