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09 Apr 2013 12:14
SANDF soldiers during the memorial for 13 colleagues who died in the Central African Republic. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)
"All the SANDF personnel who were still in the CAR have been withdrawn and are back home safe and are receiving all the professional support they require," Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga said in a statement on Tuesday.
"Regarding the allegations by foreign reporters about the number of casualties suffered by the SANDF: the SANDF would like to assure all South Africans that there are no bodies or personnel of the SANDF that cannot be declared."
A news agency in France earlier reported that CAR rebels claimed the number of South African soldiers killed in the battle in Bangui was between 36 and 50. South Africa put the death toll at 13.
Mabanga said all 13 had been buried.
The nine soldiers still in hospital were recovering well and had the medical support they needed.
The 13 soldiers were killed on March 23 when rebel fighters near the CAR's capital, Bangui, attacked them.
The SANDF troops were sent to the CAR under an agreement between South Africa and the then CAR president François Bozizé.
The soldiers were supposed to have been helping with training, but some reports suggested they were there to guard business interests.
Mabanga commended the soldiers for their "brave and courageous actions" when they were confronted by thousands of soldiers of the opposing forces.
"Despite being outnumbered, these SANDF members managed to stand their ground, inflicted many casualties on the opposing forces until the attackers surrendered and initiated a cease-fire which led to a truce," he said.
"The SANDF does not pride itself on the numbers of opposing forces it has killed but prides itself on the respect it commands from its opposing forces."
He said reports from "various sources" indicated that between 600 and 1000 were killed on the opposing side.
The SANDF would leave it to the rebels to count their own casualties.
"The SANDF believes that the opposing forces will be bold enough to admit that hundreds if not more than a thousand of its forces perished or diminished in front of the brave SANDF members," he said.
"It is unfortunate that there was no balance in the reports about the casualties during the engagement between the CAR rebels and the SANDF members. Very little is reported or receives attention when it comes to the CAR rebels."
The SANDF would not be shaken by false reports, he said.
President Jacob Zuma announced on Wednesday that South Africa intended withdrawing its troops from CAR. – Sapa
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