Rehabilitating Insurgents with Guns

Hundreds of former Tamil Tigers fighters are in detention/rehabilitation centres. Some of the best shots, some of them former insurgent snipers, are being trained in competition shooting by the Sri Lanka military as part of their rehabilitation.

I cannot think of another instance in history where prisoners of war have been given marksmen training by the very people they were waging a violent insurgency against. This is proof that guns can be used for healing, not just killing.

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Anthony

    I’m interested to see how this works out. Keep us updated if possible!

  • MrSatyre

    Hmm. The potential for (pardon the pun) backfiring is probably not low. How many gang, revolutionary or terrorist cell members are there that go on to peaceful, civilized coexistence with their former adversaries compared to the ones who revert to type after being “rehabilitated”? I’m not an expert, but I’m guessing the answer is “Very, very low.”

    “Hey, you know those guys who were shooting at us? I’ve got a great idea! After we win the war and capture them, let’s give them every opportunity to hone their skills so that later on, y’know, if they feel like it, they can shoot at us more effectively and from greater ranges.”

    “Sounds great! Let’s do it!”

    • Máté

      Maybe if they are not completely devoid of emotions, they won’t shoot at people, who they know and have common experiences with. At least I hope it’s not as easy to shoot people, you know, than nameless strangers.

      • MrSatyre

        You may be right—and that would be great if you are—but people shoot (stab, beat, maim) people the know intimately all the time.

    • Denny

      Roman Empire (whose addendum is also current USA) had ‘rehabilitated’ those in so called provinces, if fact conquered territories. They were first vasals or even slaves, later they became full-righted Roman citizens. Look at ethnological diversity in Italy and in Medittereanian in general….

      • Riot

        Yeah but the Germans that Rome trained and paid to fight for it were the same people who smashed the empire apart

    • marder

      There is a big difference between an insurgent group, guerilla, etc. fighting a conventional army respecting the rules of war, and a terrorist who attacks civilians indiscriminately.

  • Thumpinater

    I don’t agree with all the people who are going to say that former fighters often take up the sword again. Through out history that has rarely been the case for men after they reach the age of 30 unless they become leaders. After a nation has been conquered and pacified it rarely revolt immediately.

    • Rob

      That is not due to the reformation of the individual, but rather the dissipation or abrogation of the cause that the individual was fighting for.

  • Sam J

    The East German Army retained a number of Nazi troops and officers. A very small number of East German forces were also retained as part of reunification.

    While not small arms, we famously brought over Wernher von Braun and the V-2 team from the Nazis to build us the Redstone rocket and eventually the Saturn V.

    More recently, the US funded former Soviet ICBM scientists so that they wouldn’t sell out to North Korea and Iran. That’s why the Atlas V has a Russian engine, and Boeing Sea Launch is based around a Ukrainian rocket.

    • Partizan1942

      Khemm… East Germany or the Soviet Union were never conquered.

    • Denny

      Excellent case of “tactical generosity”. This also simply proves whose system is superior. Give foe a chance and you will get the best out of him. There used to be joke: why Americans are ahead of Russians? Because they have the better Germans!

    • W

      Operation Paperclip

      • kjjohn


  • SPC Boyd

    This will be my toss up for bad idea of the year.

  • tarkan

    Come on,rehabilitate them with Nukes.ID of Key secret witness for coup trials in my country has his ID revealed recently.He is a terrorist?? ..

  • SAPH

    This is the first time I’ve heard of former insurgents being rehabilitated with sport shooting, I dont think much can go wrong with it., specially as if they do try anything, the guards will kill them on the spot. I know in the 70’s and 80’s both Rhodesia (Zimbabwe now) and South Africa used to re arm many captured freedom fighters and had good results, some were given the opertunaty to become farmers or cooks if they didnt feel like fighting . No the same but close enough.

  • Partizan1942

    Be honest now, from every pair of them one has to shoot and the other one is the target…

    Sorry, my bad bad humor… 🙂

  • Denny

    This indeed is a phenomenal idea. It says to formed enemies: look, we want to trust you, join us. No better way to turn people’s minds around. It is possible that some rogue will pop up; there is a risk at every undertaking – but it is probably well worth it.

  • Máté

    Did you watch the video? They are working, they have families back at home, they used to fight against what they were told to fight against. They are not just bad guys who want to destroy the good guys and take over the world.

  • Mike Knox

    It’s like drug rehab where patients work at a marujuana greenhouse to “learn how to be a productive member of society” an all that diarhoea..

  • Chase

    Al Jazeera does some great stories. Thanks for posting this.

  • crosshairnz

    These guys are basically in a prison camp and the government is making a propaganda show to the world by letting a few of them shoot an air rifle.

    The way the LTTE worked was that these guys were locked up in a base most of the time and then just brought to an operation theatre and told to go fight.

    The LTTE operated more like a conventional army under a single despotic and fat leader.

    They were totally subordinated and there was no decision making left to mid level and low level cadres.

    SO they have no capabilty to operate independantly or in small groups like say the LRA.

    They were pretty much slaves in the LTTE and now their slaves of the Sri Lankan regime.