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US hires mercenaries in Kerala

IANS

Tuesday 20 January 2004

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Kerala government is probing the alleged recruitment of 500 ex-servicemen from the state to the American forces in Iraq.

The recruitment drive is believed to have been carried out by a Kuwaiti firm supplying men and material to US forces based in Iraq.

Following news reports in a leading English newspaper that close to 300 people had already left Kerala to go to Kuwait and then the Non-Resident Keralite Affairs Department (Norka) swung into action and asked the Protector of Emigrants (PoE) in Kochi for a report.

Norka Secretary Jiji Thompson said they had made their own inquiries as well and it was almost certain that there was nothing wrong in the recruitment.

"So far we have not been able to unearth anything illegal," Thompson said.

The recruitment of the ex-servicemen was confirmed by the intelligence wing of the state police after a preliminary inquiry. They, too, maintained that it was too early to say whether the entire process was illegal or not.

Reports indicated that the former army junior commissioned officers, all of whom are from central Kerala, were promised salaries ranging from $1,000 to $2,500 for being posted at Iraq.

All those who have left for Iraq are believed to be non-Muslims under the age of 45 who served in the artillery, infantry and armoured corps.

Thompson added that they were proceeding cautiously as his earlier attempt to probe housemaids recruited to the Middle East was not taken in the right spirit.

"The response I got was cold. They told me that if I could guarantee them jobs here, they were prepared not to go. So this time we are extremely cautious and are not prepared to come to any conclusion without getting all the details," he said.

See online : http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/...

P.S.

The Times of India, Tuesday, January 20, 2004.

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