AP Intelligence Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) – SEAL Team 6 is officially known as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, one of the military’s elite special mission units that carry out clandestine operations like last year’s raid that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.
Based in Dam Neck, Va., SEAL Team 6 was first developed to be a maritime-focused hostage-rescue force _ the seabound counterpart to the Army’s 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment Delta. Both were established to build U.S. military expertise after the failed rescue attempt to retrieve 53 U.S. hostages being held in Iran in 1980.
After the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, SEAL Team 6 and Delta became best known for going after high-value terrorist suspects across the Middle East and Asia.
While SEAL Team 6 is known for the bin Laden raid, Delta is best known for tracking down fugitive Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, his sons and top al-Qaida targets in Iraq.
Both units are members of the military’s elite Joint Special Operations Command and number just a few hundred. There are more than 2,500 SEALs, with a small number who spend time serving in the most elite unit before taking their expertise back to the other teams.
The SEALs were the go-to force for the Somalia operation to rescue aid workers Jessica Buchanan and Danish citizen Poul Hagen Thisted from kidnappers because of the SEALs’ long-standing presence in the Horn of Africa. The unit had carried out previous hostage-rescue operations like the one that safely retrieved American cargo ship Capt. Richard Phillips, who was being held by pirates in his own ship’s lifeboat in 2009. Navy SEAL snipers killed the pirates, shooting from the fantail of the destroyer USS Bainbridge.
The successful rescue of the aid workers Tuesday also helps erase a dark moment for the team, when British hostage Linda Norgrove was accidentally killed during a rescue attempt in Afghanistan in 2010.
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