Geronimo is the name of the Apache warrior who fought against Mexico and the United States troops for their expansion into Apache tribal lands during the Apache wars. In today’s generation, Geronimo is the name given to the raid that killed the world’s most wanted enemy, Osama bin Laden, inside a private residential compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan on May 2, 2011.
While US officials refused to comment why the name Geronimo was chosen for the operation, a report by The Telegraph mentioned that the code name may have been selected for the al-Qaida leader because, like the Native American Indian war chief, he managed to elude capture for many years.
Operation Geronimo was a 40-minute carefully planned attack performed by the US Navy SEAL Team Six – an elite unit that is part of the “Naval Special Warfare Development Group.” The operation was authorized by President Obama in the morning of April 29 and was to be originally executed on Saturday evening. However, on Friday, due to weather reasons, the operation was pushed to Sunday.
BBC News gave blow-by-blow details of the operation that describes how the raid took place and claimed the life of al-Qaida leader, Osama bin Laden:
1. Helicopter-borne US Navy SEALs fly from Afghanistan to Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, arriving at around 0030 Monday (0930GMT Sunday). The names of “SEAL Team 6” members remained anonymous; however, according to the Business Insider, the members of this unit are all “black” operatives that exist outside military protocol. Other existing reports noted that the Navy SEAL Team 6 is only made up of a few personnel based in Dam Neck, Virginia and the group is officially named as Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or DEVGRU.
President Obama referred to the team as “anonymous heroes” who dedicate their lives in defending the country. “We may not always know their names, we may not always know their stories, but they are always there on the front lines of freedom and we are truly blessed,” said Obama in a White House ceremony following the triumphant operation.
2. Four Black Hawk helicopters swooped in to the compound and the two teams of 12 SEALs breaches at least three walls to reach the main building. The physical security of the compound was described as “extraordinarily unique” as the walls are built at 12 to 18 feet and the two security gates are heavily restricted. The compound does not have windows facing the road and one part of the estate has its own 7-foot privacy wall.
After the team positively identified that Osama bin Laden is in the compound, they ordered him to surrender, but the 54-year old al-Qaeda leader refused to be caught alive. A senior U.S. security official told Reuters that it was a “kill operation,” but other US officials have publicly said that bin Laden could have been taken alive if he did not resist capture.
Counterterrorism chief John Brennan said “If we had the opportunity to take him alive we would have done that.”
In a separate statement by retired U.S. Army general Barry McCaffrey, bin Laden apparently did not surrender. “His security agents had been told to kill him if it looked like they were about to lose him to a U.S. snatch operation,” McCaffrey told ABC News.
3. As the Navy SEALs infiltrate the compound one person fires on the commandos. Three men and a woman are killed, while there are no US casualties.
4. On the second floor US commandos find Osama Bin Laden in a room with his wife. She is shot in the leg. Bin Laden, who is unarmed, is shot twice and killed. In the midst of the gunbattle, Osama bin Laden managed to hide behind a woman, who according to Brennan was one of bin Laden’s wives. A senior administration official told ABC News that bin Laden was shot twice, once in the head and once in the chest.
Other identified casualties include one of bin Laden’s oldest sons, Hamza Bin Laden; bin Laden’s courier and the courier’s brother. The Navy SEALs sent the cryptic code “Geronimo-E KIA” to Washington, which meant “Enemy Killed In Action.”
5. Computer hard drives and other evidence are taken from the compound, along with Bin Laden’s body. The US team departs after destroying the damaged aircraft.
The United States has been rigorously tailing Osama bin Laden for nearly a decade when the critical tip about where bin Laden might be hiding came in August. In March, Obama had ordered the development of a plan for the United States to bomb bin Laden’s compound with two B2 stealth bombers dropping a few dozen 2,000-pound bombs, sources tell ABC News. However, Obama changed his mind upon finding out that the compound will be possibly reduced to rubble, destroying evidences and killing more people in the compound including women and children, and potentially some neighbors.
By mid-March, Obama led five National Security Council meetings on the plans for an operation; and in April, the Navy SEALs ran two dry runs at the replica compound they built in the United States to practice the raid.
Handling Osama bin Laden’s Corpse
After the series of gun fires, the Navy SEALs moved quickly to determine bin Laden’s identity. They also measured the corpse before transmitting photographs back to CIA headquarters and agency analysts for the facial recognition analysis. Their report concluded it was a 90 to 95 percent match.
Bin Laden’s DNA was likewise tested for positive identification and the result came back as a 99.9 percent match. His body was then flown to the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and he was buried at sea in accordance with Islamic law.
Aside from complying with the Islamic practices in terms of handling bin Laden’s body, no photos were released so as not to inflame the Muslim world.
Following bin Laden’s death, the United Stated heightened its security alert by deploying sufficient enforcements in states like New York, Washington, and Philadelphia. U.S. Embassies have also been placed on high alert as the event is expected to trigger revenge from the al-Qaeda movement.
Apparently, the next target for the United States is the number two in al Qaeda’s chain of command, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Zawahiri, an Egyptian doctor, helped found al Qaeda along with bin Laden.
As CIA Director Leon E. Panetta, who was responsible for the overall command of the Geronimo operation, said in a message to employees “Though bin Laden is dead, al-Qaeda is not. The terrorists almost certainly will attempt to avenge him, and we must — and will — remain vigilant and resolute.”
This Article is written by James Kara Murat