Two British officers played key role in operation `Geronimo`
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Last Updated: Sunday, May 08, 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 said.

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 occasions.

PTI


First Published: Sunday, May 08, 2011, 21:40


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