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'Geronimo EKIA'- Magic words that Obama was waiting to hear

world Updated: May 03, 2011 10:56 IST
Geronimo EKIA

'Geronimo EKIA.' That was the terse message that US President Barack Obama was tensely waiting to hear. It meant that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had been killed, The New York Times reported.

The code name for Bin Laden was 'Geronimo' and EKIA stood for Enemy Killed In Action.

As Leon E. Panetta, the CIA director, made the dramatic announcement, there was silence in the Situation Room in the White House Sunday night.

Finally, the President spoke.

'We got him.'

Osama bin Laden was killed in a top secret operation by the US' Navy SEALS in Abbottabad in Pakistan.

Obama and his advisers had been watching Panetta on a video screen in the Situation Room, narrating from his agency’s headquarters what was happening in faraway Pakistan.

Panetta kept them posted on every move by the crack commandos.

'They’ve reached the target,' he said.

Minutes passed.

'We have a visual on Geronimo,' he said.

And then a few minutes later: 'Geronimo EKIA.'

Administration officials were split over whether to launch the operation, whether to wait and continue monitoring until they were more sure that bin Laden was really there, or whether to go for a less risky bombing assault.

In the end, President Obama opted against a bombing that could do so much damage it might be uncertain whether bin Laden was really hit and chose to send in commandos. A 'fight your way out' option was built into the plan, with two helicopters following the two main assault copters as backup in case of trouble.

On Sunday afternoon, as the helicopters raced over Pakistani territory, the president and his advisers gathered in the Situation Room to monitor the operation as it unfolded.

Much of the time was spent in silence.

Obama looked 'stone faced', one aide 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.