Sri Lankan military woos Muslims to join army

Published on Mar 28, 2006 03:34 PM IST

A spokesman said the recruitment drive was launched in the district of Amparai where there is a heavy concentration of Muslims.

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None | ByAgence France-Presse, Colombo

Sri Lanka's military on Tuesday began recruiting Muslims to protect villages of their community in the island's restive east, the defence ministry said.

A spokesman said the recruitment drive was launched in the district of Amparai where there is a heavy concentration of Muslims, the second largest minority here after Tamils.

"We are not raising a Muslim regiment," the spokesman said. "The idea is to recruit from among the local community to deploy them in the same area to protect the villages."

The Sri Lankan military is overwhelmingly made up of the Sinhalese majority.

The recruitment marks the first time the military has targeted Muslims for the Sri Lankan army, which has an estimated strength of about 120,000 men and women.

The Sri Lankan army has a high desertion rate. Last year the government offered to drop court martial proceedings against 70,000 deserters as part of a drive to overhaul security forces.

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