Former Tamil Tiger snipers join Sri Lanka shooting team

Sri Lanka Tamil rebel with assault rifle (file photo from 1991) The ex-fighters had been part of rehabilitation programmes - which some are sceptical of (file photo)

Former Tamil Tiger snipers have been selected to represent Sri Lanka in shooting sports at national level.

They are among 16 picked at a talent-spotting camp held for ex-fighters last month. Others will represent Sri Lanka in swimming, athletics and cricket.

Some had even been trained as suicide bombers, a sports ministry spokesman said. The top swimmers picked were with the rebel's naval wing, he added.

Sri Lanka's army defeated Tamil rebels in 2009, after 26 years of civil war.

Those selected are either in government rehabilitation programmes or have completed them. They are now training with the relevant sports bodies.

Officials say they hope some will qualify to take part in next year's South Asian Games in Delhi.

"It's a good example for other countries. These people were against the Sri Lankan army. Now they're in a good position," spokesman Harasha Abeykoon told the BBC's Charles Haviland in Colombo.

He said that 135 former rebels in rehabilitation expressed interest in taking part in swimming, shooting, tennis and badminton.

He said another sports initiative is also under way with a volleyball team of disabled men made up of ex-rebels as well as ex-soldiers.

Sri Lanka says it has rehabilitated nearly 11,000 former Tigers in special camps and is still putting 630 through the process.

The Red Cross is denied access to the camps and many rights groups and governments are sceptical about the whole process, says our correspondent.

But Colombo insists it has been effective.

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