03 May 2011

Osama bin Laden Dead: Code Name Geronimo

As President Barack Obama and his team sat on tenterhooks in the Situation Room, the CIA director Leon Panetta broke the silence with the memorable words: "We have a visual on Geronimo". It was the first confirmation that Osama bin Laden, who had been given the 19th Century Apache leader's name as a code word, was definitely in the compound in Pakistan.

Shortly afterwards, a Navy SEAL halfway across the world sent the message "Geronimo EKIA" – meaning enemy killed in action – which was relayed to a jubilant Situation Room.

The code name Geronimo had apparently been chosen for bin Laden because, like the Native American chief, he had managed to evade capture for years and was apparently able to vanish into thin air.

In Geronimo's case his ability to stay on the run gave rise to legends that he was able to walk without leaving any tracks, and that he could survive being shot.

More than a century before bin Laden escaped from the caves of Tora Bora, Geronimo was said to have pulled off a similar evasion in New Mexico.

He and his followers entered a cave which was said to have only one visible entrance, and then disappeared as US troops waited at the front. More than 5,000 soldiers were used to hunt Geronimo and a small band of followers. Unlike bin Laden he eventually surrendered in 1886.

He went on to embrace Christianity and to become a celebrity, appearing at the World's Fair in St Louis in 1904, and at the inaugural parade for President Theodore Roosevelt the following year.

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