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South African army deaths from Central African Republic rise to 14

Members of the South Africa National Defence Force (SANDF) carry the mortal remains of 13 members that were killed in Central African Republ
Members of the South Africa National Defence Force (SANDF) carry the mortal remains of 13 members that were killed in Central African Republ

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - One of 27 South African soldiers injured in March in fighting against rebels in Central African Republic has died, bringing to 14 the total killed in the clashes, a defense force spokesman said on Tuesday.

The soldier, who was not identified, had been released from hospital on April 19 following an improvement in his condition.

"Yesterday, he collapsed at home and was rushed to hospital, where he died," South African National Defense Force spokesman Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga said. Pretoria had originally reported 13 killed in the fighting.

South Africa suffered the casualties in fighting in late March near Bangui between members of its 200-strong military contingent deployed in Central African Republic and rebels who seized power there by toppling President Francois Bozize.

The deaths drew criticism from South Africa's opposition and the military's trade union which said the South African deployment had appeared to back Bozize, who took over in a 2003 coup before winning an election two years later.

South African President Jacob Zuma has rebuffed the criticism, saying the soldiers, who included military trainers and a protection force for them, were deployed in Central African Republic to contribute to African Union efforts to maintain peace in the violence-plagued nation.

(Reporting by Pascal Fletcher; Editing by Peroshni Govender)

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