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SAfrica Official Gun Practice

December 19, 2000

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) _ South Africa’s defense minister said Tuesday that reports soldiers had been ordered to shoot at a picture of President Thabo Mbeki were incorrect.

Photographs of Mbeki and other government leaders had been used to familiarize members of the National Ceremonial Guard with the people they had to protect, Mosiuoa Lekota told a news conference in Pretoria.

The photos were interspersed with others to simulate a real-life situation. Some of the soldiers, however, were not the most accurate shots and hit the pictures, Lekota said.

``This exercise ... was perfectly legitimate and carried out by an officer and subordinates loyal to this government determined to get themselves ready to protect the leaders of this government,″ he said.

The Sowetan Sunday World had reported that a military shooting range instructor had ordered members of the National Ceremonial Guard to shoot the targets of the government officials. The enraged soldiers refused, according to the report.

Lekota said, however, that none of the 20 soldiers who participated in the exercise complained about it, and they were shocked at the Sowetan report.

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