Britain cuts 140 Gurkha jobs in first wave of defence cuts

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Britain on Thursday informed 140 Nepalese Gurkha troops that they would lose their jobs in a first wave of redundancies forced by defence cuts aimed at curbing a massive deficit.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed that the Gurkhas were among 920 army personnel and and 930 RAF personnel being told that they are being made redundant, 750 of them against their will.

Opposition lawmakers and Gurkha campaigners criticised the move, but an MoD spokesman said that the Gurkhas were being treated in the same way as other parts of the British army in terms of cuts.

"Since the modernisation of their terms and conditions of their service in 2007, the Gurkha engagement has been 22 years instead of 15 years," the spokesman said.

"As nearly all the Gurkhas chose to serve longer, this has meant that the Brigade has grown over time and needs to be reduced to its proper size."

Around 3,500 Gurkhas, recruited from Nepal, currently serve in the British army, including in Afghanistan, and they have their own brigade.

Jim Murphy, defence spokesman for the main opposition Labour party, said the cuts were being made "too quickly, too deeply".

Gurkha Justice Campaign founder Peter Carroll strongly criticised the redundancies, saying it was "particularly unfair that such a large number of Gurkhas are going against their own wishes".

"These are people who, as individuals, have given many years of loyal service to the UK. It risks undermining the 200-year history between Britain and Nepal," he said.

About 200,000 Gurkhas fought for Britain in World War I and World War II and more than 45,000 have died in British uniform. They have a reputation for ferocity and bravery and are known for their distinctive curved Kukri knives.

In recent years they have had to contend with a series of setbacks including a battle over pensions.

Following a defence review on October by the Conservative coalition government that took office in May 2010, the MoD said it would reduce the number of military personnel by 17,000 over four years.

The review has also seen Britain give up its flagship aircraft carrier.

© 2011 AFP

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