WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama on Friday will meet members of the secretive team of elite commandos who stole deep into Pakistan in the dead of night and killed America's top terror target Osama bin Laden.
The president will come face to face with some of the publicity-shy men who mounted the daring Navy SEAL raid on bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad last Sunday in a meeting at the Fort Campbell army base in Kentucky, an official said.
The president "will have the opportunity to privately thank some of the special operators involved in the operation," the official said.
Obama's visit will be the latest move by the president to mark the killing of bin Laden while apparently seeking to avoid accusations that he is trying to profit politically from the al Qaeda leader's death.
The president paid homage to victims of al Qaeda's September 11, 2001, attacks on Thursday by laying a wreath at the Ground Zero site of the toppled World Trade Center twin towers and comforting family members of victims.
He did not give a major speech but spoke at a firehouse that lost 15 men - an entire shift - in the World Trade Center inferno, saying that Bin Laden's death proved America was committed to bringing terrorists to justice.
In the aftermath of the raid in Pakistan, Obama on Wednesday met Admiral William McRaven, chairman of the Joint Special Operations Command, in the Oval Office to thank him for the assault on Bin Laden's lair.
In the public portion of his visit to Fort Campbell, Obama was due to greet troops who had recently returned from Afghanistan, including members of the 101st Airborne Division.
The Navy SEALs team helicoptered across Pakistan and killed Bin Laden in the early hours of Monday before taking his corpse to a US ship for a burial at sea.
The commandos who swooped in on the 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 confirm that "Team Six" led the assault, though Vice President Joe Biden and CIA chief Leon Panetta have 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 time 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 it 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 AFP.
While still widely referred to as Team Six, the squad has a new, more prosaic name: the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or DEVGRU.
Given their publicity-shy ways, the American public has had no clear picture of the men who carried out the raid.
But Senator Mark Warner, who represents Virginia, where some of the SEALs are based, opened up a page on his website to allow Americans to express their thanks to the unit.
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