The military squad that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan was based in Virginia Beach, at Naval Air Station Oceana, according to reports.
The elite counterterrorism squad SEAL Team Six, also called the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group, launched a carefully-planned helicopter assault on a well-fortified compound intelligence officials identified as the hiding place of Osama bin Laden.
High-ranking military officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, disclosed details of the raid to the Associated Press.
Intelligence officials discovered the compound in August while monitoring an al-Qaida courier. The CIA had been hunting that courier for years, ever since detainees told interrogators that the courier was so trusted by bin Laden that he might very well be living with the al-Qaida leader.
Nestled in an affluent neighborhood two hours from Islamabad, the compound was surrounded by walls as high as 18 feet, topped with barbed wire. Two security gates guarded the only way in. A third-floor terrace was shielded by a seven-foot privacy wall. No phone lines or Internet cables ran to the property. The residents burned their garbage rather than put it out for collection. Intelligence officials believed the million-dollar compound was built five years ago to protect a major terrorist figure. The question was, who?
The CIA asked itself again and again who might be living behind those walls. Each time, they concluded it was almost certainly bin Laden.
By mid-February, intelligence from multiple sources was clear enough that Obama wanted to "pursue an aggressive course of action," a senior administration official said. Over the next two and a half months, Obama led five meetings of the National Security Council focused solely on whether bin Laden was in that compound and, if so, how to get him, the official said.
Normally, the U.S. shares its counterterrorism intelligence widely with trusted allies in Britain, Canada, Australia and elsewhere. And the U.S. normally does not carry out ground operations inside Pakistan without collaboration with Pakistani intelligence. But this mission was too important and too secretive.
On April 29, Obama approved an operation to kill bin Laden. It was a mission that required surgical accuracy, even more precision than could be delivered by the government's sophisticated Predator drones. To execute it, Obama tapped the Virginia-based elite counterterrorism unit and put them under the command of CIA Director Leon Panetta, whose analysts monitored the compound from afar.
Details of exactly how the raid unfolded remain murky. But the al-Qaida courier, his brother and one of bin Laden's sons were killed. No Americans were injured. Senior administration officials will only say that bin Laden ``resisted.'' And then the man behind the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil died from an American bullet to his head.
It was mid-afternoon in Virginia when Panetta and his team received word that bin Laden was dead. Cheers and applause broke out across the conference room.