US & Canada

Bin Laden killed: Geronimo code name angers Apaches

Geronimo in 1887
Image caption Geronimo, pictured in 1887, fought to protect his land, his people and their way of life

An Apache tribe in the US has demanded an apology from President Obama for using the name of the warrior Geronimo as the code name for Osama Bin Laden.

Jeff Houser, Fort Sill Apache Tribal Chairman, said equating the legendary Apache to a mass murderer was painful and offensive to all Native Americans.

The commando team that attacked and killed the al-Qaeda leader used the name Geronimo in its progress reports.

The US Defence Department said no disrespect had been intended.

It would not elaborate on the use of the name Geronimo, but said its code names were usually chosen at random.

Code names allow soldiers taking part in missions to communicate with each other without divulging vital information to eavesdroppers.

In his letter to Mr Obama - also posted on the Oklahoma tribe's website - Mr Houser said: "Right now Native American children all over this country are facing the reality of having one of their most revered figures being connected to a terrorist and murderer of thousands of innocent Americans.

"Think about how they feel at this point."

Defiant leader

Mr Houser said President Obama was elected on a message of compassion and change, but linking the memory of Geronimo to "one of the most despicable enemies this country has ever had" showed neither compassion to Native Americans nor change in the perception of them or their struggle.

In his time, the defiant Apache leader was a thorn in the side of both the Mexican and US armies as he fought to protect his land, his people and their way of life.

He evaded capture for years before being tracked down - with the help of Apache scouts - in 1886.

Geronimo was eventually sent to Fort Sill in Oklahoma where he died of pneumonia in 1909 after nearly 23 years in captivity.

The BBC's Paul Adams in Washington says Geronimo's reputation for bravery is the reason why generations of US soldiers - and small boys everywhere - have uttered his name when making their most daring jumps.