The operation that led to the killing of the world's most-wanted terrorist Osama Bin-Laden was almost nine-month old but surprised the world over its ease and success, due to the crucial role played by the United States Navy SEALs, a wing from the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU), previously known as SEAL Team Six, under the command of the Joint Special Operations Command, in conjunction with Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operatives.

A team of 40 CIA-led Navy SEALs, 24 on the ground, successfully completed the operation to kill Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad in the early morning of May 1, 2011. The mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks and leader of Al Qaeda was reportedly shot in the head.

More than the CIA, it was Navy SEALs who got the attention for their lightning speed in this mission.

Who are they?

The United States Navy Sea, Air and Land (SEAL) Teams are the Navy’s special operations force and also a part of the Naval Special Warfare Command (NSWC). They are also part of the maritime component of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).

The term SEAL comes from the unit's mission which meant it to operate anywhere in the world: Sea, Air, and Land. They were trained in demolitions, hand-to-hand combat, and high altitude-low opening parachuting.

There are about 2,400 commandos in the SEAL force and it takes more than three years to train a SEAL involving an estimated cost of $1 million per person.

Their origin was traceable to World War Two, when the United States Navy recognized the need for soldiers to reconnoiter landing beaches, note obstacles and defenses, and ultimately guide the landing forces in.

The SEALs were incorporated more fully into the Special Forces by in 1962 by then US President John F Kennedy. The US Navy realised the necessity for guerrilla/counter-guerrilla warfare and recommended the establishment of such units, which would be able to operate from sea, air or land. This was the beginning of the Navy SEALs.