The Navy SEALs team that conducted this operation was the legendary Team Six, aka DevGru, or the “Naval Special Warfare Development Group,” flown into Pakistan by helicopter teams from the 160th Special Operations Air Regiment, part of the Joint Special Operations Command.
The original plan was for the Navy SEALs to rappel down into the compound, and that’s how they practiced it in April on a replica of the compound the military constructed in the U.S. on which SEALs Team Six conducted two practice runs.
But Sunday, one of the helicopters had an issue – they’re not sure what as of now – and conducted a soft crash landing. The chopper hit the deck – “it was a real white-knuckle moment,” a US official tells ABC News.
Another white-knuckle moment – at the end of the operation, Pakistan’s military scrambled fighter jets looking for the US helicopters. Who knows what could have happened if the Pakistani planes had reached the US helicopters -- but they didn’t.
The US team got back to Afghanistan by around 5:45 pm ET.
This operation happened, an official said, because of dogged, relentless intelligence work. For years, from detainees at Gitmo, the CIA had the nom de guerre of the courier, but they didn’t have his true name until 2007.
Intel spotted him in early 2009 – it took a while to follow him . Last August when intel found the compound the reaction was along the lines of “Oh my God who are they hiding here?” a official said, recalling definite recognition this was a significant find. Congressional leaders were briefed about the compound in December.
One possible complication: While CIA contractor Ray Davis was in the Pakistani prison there were concerns about his safety were this mission to be conducted.
Davis’s March 16 release cleared that possible obstacle to the operation -- a kill mission, with the clear objective to kill bin Laden.