Two British officers played key role in operation `Geronimo`

Last Updated: Sunday, May 8, 2011 - 21:40

London: Two officers from the British
special forces played a vital role in planning the covert
operation that killed al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden at his
hideout in the heart of Pakistan, a media report said on Sunday.

The unnamed officers, a captain and a major, were
involved in the "detailed planning of an operation so precise
that an exact replica of bin Laden`s sprawling home was
constructed in Afghanistan so the assault could be rehearsed,"
the Sunday Express reported.

Two officers from Britain`s Special Boat Service (SBS)
could be in line for American military honours for the parts
they played in planning the audacious raid on Osama`s compound
at Abbottabad in Pakistan, the report said.

Neither the captain nor the major had a "trigger job"
in the fight that raged when US Navy Seals stormed bin Laden`s
lair on Monday but their top secret role has been described as
crucial for the success of the mission.

Details have also began to emerge about the
sophisticated levels of cyber warfare used in Operation
Neptune`s Spear, nicknamed "Geronimo".

In the run-up to the assault, the Americans jammed all
communications in the target area, bringing down electronic
systems and cell phones.

The mission was mounted by an EA-6 Prowler aircraft
operating from the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson and a
revolutionary pilotless drone aircraft.

Britain`s SBS officers were involved in the briefings
prior to the attack, according to the report.

A military insider has said, "One of the things the
SBS is renowned for is its specialist signals capabilities and
these were used by US forces in the days and weeks leading up
to the operation."

A separate intelligence source told the Express, "We
did have people on exchange but they were exchange staff
officers in a role which we have maintained for many years."

The Pentagon has encouraged British involvement in
some of their most secretive work in recent times because of
our special forces` unrivalled expertise in urban warfare,
particularly surveillance operations and raids on fortified
buildings, the source said.

Britain`s Special Air Service (SAS) and SBS personnel
have carried out as many as 2,000 assaults on al Qaeda and
Taliban strongholds in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past
decade, many in close co-operation with US troops, the source

Another source told the paper that the elite unit
charged with attacking bin Laden`s sanctuary has enjoyed
co-operating with the SBS because of their joint maritime
links and because of British success at completing raids
without relying on air force back-up.

"Navy Seals see a special kindred with the SBS, who
specialise in maritime warfare and rarely require air
support," said the source.

The use of special forces has increased dramatically
in recent years and the need for co-operation between Nato
allies has seen frequent exchanges of specialists.

Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British
forces in Afghanistan, has said, "It comes as no surprise to
learn that UK special forces were involved in this operation.

"There is a long history of UK and US Special Forces
working hand in glove particularly, in recent years, in Iraq
and Afghanistan. They trust and respect each other highly and
play a crucial role in operations against both al Qaeda and
the Taliban."

The two SBS operators left their base in Poole,
Dorset, last July and arrived at the allies` Bagram air base
in Afghanistan several weeks ago after the CIA ordered
Operation Neptune`s Spear to be fine-tuned for final White
House approval.

In the weeks running up to the assault, Navy Seals
practised on a full-scale replica of bin Laden`s compound with
each member of the 24-man team becoming accustomed to such
tiny details as the position of electrical cables and the
layout of rooms.

A source added, "The British officers contributed to
the intense planning and are understood to have briefed the
assault teams in aspects of the mission."

US President Barack Obama has already awarded the
Presidential Citation to the Navy Seals, which is the highest
award in the US military.

It was not known whether the individual unit members,
including those of the SBS, would be awarded the Navy`s
Distinguished Service Medal, as has happened on other


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First Published: Sunday, May 8, 2011 - 21:40

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