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Central African Republic-DRC: Bemba to withdraw forces from CAR

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KINSHASA, 22 January (IRIN) - The leader of the Mouvement de liberation du Congo, Jean-Pierre Bemba, announced on Tuesday he would withdraw his troops from the Central African Republic (CAR) in February.
"We will withdraw our troops from Bangui on 15 February at the latest," he told IRIN from his headquarters in Gbadolite, a town in Equateur Province in the northwest of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The decision to pull out his 15,000 troops, he said, was taken after consultations with CAR President Ange-Felix Patasse. Bemba's fighters have been in Bangui since supporters of CAR former army chief of staff Francois Bozize invaded the CAR capital on 25 October 2002. Patassee had asked Bemba for help to put down the uprising.

"We were in the Central African Republic to protect President Patasse and his democratically elected regime," Bemba said.

Opposition parties and the public, however, have grown hostile to the presence of Bemba's fighters, who they have accused of embarking on a looting and raping spree in the northern suburbs of Bangui. Recently, the UN accused Bemba's fighters of cannibalism and other human rights violations in Ituri District, northeastern DRC.

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