Obama to meet bin Laden commandos Friday

Last Updated: Friday, May 6, 2011 - 12:19

Washington: President Barack Obama will Friday meet members of the secretive team of elite commandos that carried out the covert operation inside Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden, a US official said.

Obama also met Admiral William McRaven, chairman of Joint Special Operations Command in the Oval Office on Wednesday to thank him for the successful assault on bin Laden`s lair in Abbottabad, the official said on condition of anonymity.

The President, who will visit Fort Campbell in Kentucky Friday, "will have the opportunity to privately thank some of the special operators involved in the operation," the official said.

The Navy SEALs team helicoptered across Pakistan and killed bin Laden in the early hours of Monday morning before taking his corpse to a US ship in the Arabian Sea for a burial at sea.

Obama had already been scheduled to visit Fort Campbell to visit troops that have recently returned from Afghanistan, including members of the 101st Airborne Division.

The commandos who swooped on Osama bin Laden`s compound reportedly came from a renowned squad known as "Team Six," an elite unit drawn from the already elite ranks of the SEALs.

The unit is so secret that the military does not openly acknowledge its existence, but its reputation has taken on near mythic proportions and features in numerous books, films and video games.

The White House and the Central Intelligence Agency have declined to openly confirm that "Team Six" led Monday`s assault on bin Laden`s residence in Pakistan, though Vice President Joe Biden and the spy agency`s chief Leon Panetta hailed the Navy SEALs for carrying out the operation.

Since it was created in 1980 in the aftermath of the failed attempt to rescue American hostages in Iran, Team Six has been credited with the rescue of the governor of Grenada in the 1983 US invasion, helping hunt down war criminals in the Balkans and liberating the American captain of the Maersk Alabama after shooting three Somali pirates in 2009.

The squad also led the operation to rescue Linda Norgrove, a British aid worker abducted by insurgents in Afghanistan, but she died in the attempt, according to US media.

The unit`s number, six, was chosen to confuse the Soviet Union, as at the time there were only two other such teams, according to Richard Marcinko, who recounted his experience as the first leader of Team Six in his book "Rogue Warrior."

The team`s members are recruited from the 2,300 men in the Navy SEALs, an acronym for Sea, Air and Land -- famous for its brutal selection and training that push the limits of human endurance.

It takes about five years of training to earn the right to wear the trident badge of the SEALs, including underwater demolition, parachuting at high altitude and submarine operations.

Most prospective SEALs fail at some point during the selection process, often due to the psychological stress more than the physical demands of the course, said Captain Kenneth Klothe, a SEAL and director of the irregular warfare course at National Defense University.

"A lot of the guys mentally can`t stand it," Klothe told a news agency.

While still widely referred to as Team Six, the squad has a new, more prosaic name: the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or DEVGRU.

Bureau Report



First Published: Friday, May 6, 2011 - 12:19

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