Sri Lanka military reshuffle after airbase attack

Oct 23, 2007 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s military made key changes in its command on Tuesday, a day after the Tamil Tigers infiltrated an air base and destroyed several aircraft, officials said. President Mahinda Rajapakse appointed Major General Sanath Karunaratne Overall Operations Commander in the north-central region of the Anuradhapura area, where Tamil Tiger rebels devastated a key air force complex on Monday.

“He will be in charge of all security forces as well as police, including intelligence units in Anuradhapura,” a government official said.

Karunaratne, 53, had previously served as chief military spokesman. He has been credited with defending the army’s Elephant Pass garrison in the far north of the island against a prolonged Tiger attack in 1990.

The government on Tuesday also transferred the responsibility of outer perimeter security of all airports in the country to the army after the airforce failed to secure the Anuradhapura base, officials said.

Thirteen military personnel and 21 rebels were killed in the attack, the worst against the airforce since an attack in July 2001 at another base that shares a runway with the island’s only international airport.