Native American leaders in the United States expressed outrage on Wednesday that the name of legendary Apache warrior Geronimo was used as a military codename during the commando raid that killed al-Qaeda head Osama bin Laden.
“To associate a native warrior with bin Laden is not an accurate reflection of history, and it undermines the military service of native people,” said a statement by Jefferson Keel, president of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI).
Geronimo, an Apache chief who lived from 1829 to 1909, was a famed warrior who fought in what is now the U.S. State of New Mexico, battling U.S. and Mexican authorities as the American West was being settled.
The elite U.S. Navy SEAL team that stormed bin Laden's compound uttered the words ‘Geronimo-EKIA' — ‘Geronimo Enemy Killed in Action.'
Mr. Keel said using the name of Geronimo during the operation was an affront to native peoples because it linked them to one of the most reviled enemies of the United States. He noted that 77 U.S. troops of Native American origin have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001.
But U.S. officials said the mission itself was called ‘Jackpot' and the name Geronimo was not equated with the al-Qaeda leader, but was the verbal signal that the mission succeeded.