When ‘Geronimo EKIA’ meant: ‘We got him’ (Lead)

May 3rd, 2011 - 11:31 am ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Washington, May 3 (IANS) “Geronimo EKIA” - that was the cryptic code message from Pakistan that US President Barack Obama and his advisers gathered in the Situation Room of the White House had been tensely waiting for.

On Sunday afternoon, as the helicopters raced over Pakistani territory, the group gathered to monitor the operation to take out the world’s most wanted terrorist mostly watched in silence.

Obama looked “stone faced,” one aide cited by the New York Times said.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. fingered his rosary beads. “The minutes passed like days,” recalled John O. Brennan, the White House counterterrorism chief.

The code name for Bin Laden was “Geronimo.” The president and his advisers watched Leon E. Panetta, the CIA director, on a video screen, narrating from his agency’s headquarters across the Potomac River what was happening in faraway Pakistan.

“They’ve reached the target,” he said.

Minutes passed.

“We have a visual on Geronimo,” he said.

A few minutes later: “Geronimo EKIA.”

Enemy Killed In Action. There was silence in the Situation Room.

Finally, the president spoke up. “We got him.”

“It was probably one of the most anxiety-filled periods of time I think in the lives of the people who were assembled here yesterday,” Brennan told reporters.

“The minutes passed like days, and the president was very concerned about the security of our personnel.

“When we finally were informed that those individuals who were able to go on that compound had found an individual that they believed was bin Laden, there was a tremendous sigh of relief that what we believed and who we believed was in that compound actually was in that compound and was found.

“And the president was relieved once we had our people and those remains off-target.”

Four others in the compound died in the raid, including bin Laden’s adult son and a woman, Brennan said.

“Thinking about that from a visual perspective, here is bin Laden, who has been calling for these attacks, living in this million-dollar-plus compound; living in an area that is far removed from the front; hiding behind women who were put in front of him as a shield,” Brennan said.

“I think it really just speaks to just how false his narrative has been over the years.”

Brennan said that despite intelligence indicating that he was in the compound, there was no certainty the Al Qaeda leader was actually there when the president authorised the assault.

Brennan called the decision “one of the most gutsiest calls of any president in recent memory.”

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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