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Photos: Navy SEALs in Action

What was it like watching a team of Navy Seals take out the world’s No. 1 terrorist? ‘It was the longest 40 minutes of my life,’ President Obama told Brian Williams in an exclusive interview. Watch as Obama, Hillary Clinton and Mike Mullen recount watching the riveting mission.

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Pakistan Demolishes Bin Laden Compound

After nightfall today, crews began destroying the Abbottabad complex where Osama Bin Laden was killed in 2011. Demolition of the compound walls can be seen in this footage obtained by MSNBC.

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SEALs: Obama's Weapon of Choice

This week's Newsweek cover story profiles these Special Ops, Obama's fine-tuned killing machine. Daniel Klaidman on why the SEALs are having a moment.

Go-To Guys

Navy SEALs’ Daring Hostage Rescue

After Black Hawk Down in 1993, it seemed any land intervention in Somalia was out of the question, but the successful operation by the same unit that killed Osama bin Laden could be a sign of more raids to come.

A U.S. Navy SEALs unit, of the same special category that killed Osama bin Laden, has rescued an American and a Dane from pirates who captured them three months ago in Somalia. The Danish Refugee Council said the two were flown to Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, where doctors said they are in reasonably good health. The American remains in hospital for observation, but both plan to reunite soon with their families.

Navy Seals

Navy Seals photographed during a drill at the John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi on October 25, 2010. (John Scorza / U.S. Navy via Getty Images)

In a pre-dawn raid on Wednesday the 25th (early evening Tuesday, U.S. East Coast time), members of the highly-elite SEAL Team Six parachuted into an area near the pirates’ inland nest far from the coastal region around the town of Galkayo—a disputed, outlaw stronghold that's earned the name "kidnap central." Jessica Buchanan, 32, a former fourth grade teacher from Virginia, and Poul Thisted, 60, of Denmark, both employees of the Danish Demining Group (DDG), were abducted there in October. Pirates holding the pair had demanded a ransom of $10 million.

A Djibouti-based U.S. anti-terrorist unit, Joint Special Operations Command Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) launched the raid from Galkayo’s airport, near where the aid workers had been abducted. CJTF-HOA includes forces from the U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marine Corps.

RESCUE

Rendezvous With Pirates

Jessica Buchanan is safe after a daring predawn raid on the Somali pirate compound where she was held for four months. The Daily Beast reports on her path to East Africa.

Minutes after delivering his State of the Union address, President Obama called John Buchanan and told him his daughter had been rescued from Somali pirates. Hours earlier, U.S. special forces—the same elite Navy SEAL unit that killed Osama bin Laden—parachuted into the pirate encampment where Jessica Buchanan and her fellow aid worker were being held, rescued them while killing nine captors, and escaped in waiting helicopters.

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From left: Jessica Buchanan; President Obama, immediately after his State of the Union address, informing John Buchanan that his daughter had been rescued by U.S. special forces in Somalia ((L-R) Danish Refugee Council / Handout / Newscom ; Handout / AP Photo)

The raid punctuated four months of fruitless negotiations for the release of Buchanan, an American, and Poul Hagen Thisted, a Dane, who were abducted in October on their way to the airport in Galkayo, a small town in central Somalia. Both Buchanan and Thisted worked for the Danish Demining Group, a division of the Danish Refugee Council, and had just finished a workshop on defusing land mines shortly before the kidnapping. Buchanan, who felt called to Africa as a Christian missionary, had worked there as an educator for five years, first in Kenya and then in Somalia, where she moved with her husband, a Swedish aid worker, three years ago. "She could hardly talk about Africa without tears in her eyes,” said the president of the college she had attended. In perhaps the cruelest irony of the saga, Buchanan and Thisted were apparently betrayed to their captors by a local employee of the Danish aid group for which they worked—one of the last Western organizations still operating in Muslim Somalia.

Buchanan, 32, was a long way from her hometown of Cincinnati. According to a family member who wished to remain anonymous, her journey to Africa began when she enrolled at Valley Forge Christian College in Phoenixville, Pa., shortly after a split with her first husband. Through Valley Forge, Buchanan spent a semester in Nairobi as a student teacher. It was that experience that drew her back to the continent. “She did a semester of student teaching in Africa, and that experience just planted in her a love and passion for Africa," Don Meyer, president of Valley Forge, told CNN.

DARING

U.S. Raid Rescues Pirate Hostages

U.S. Raid Rescues Pirate Hostages Danish Refugee Council, AFP / Newscom

In early-morning helicopter raid.

When President Obama stepped into the House to give the State of the Union last night, he pointed to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and said, “Good job tonight.” The reason? American commandos—the same team that carried out the bin Laden mission—had just dropped into Somalia by helicopter, killed nine pirates, captured several others, and freed two aid workers, including an American woman, who had been held captive for months. In a statement this morning Obama said he authorized the operation on Monday. “Thanks to the extraordinary courage and capabilities of our Special Operations forces, yesterday Jessica Buchanan (pictured at left) was rescued and she is on her way home,” Obama said in the statement. Buchanan and Poul Hagen Thisted, a Dane, were kidnapped by two truckloads of gunmen in October on their way to the airport.

Read it at The New York Times

Personal Account

Inside SEAL Team Six

In an excerpt from former SEAL member Don Mann’s new book, “Inside SEAL Team Six,” he describes what it takes to make it through training. Plus video of him at The Daily Beast discussing training, what Obama got wrong, and more.

The more sweat and tears you put into the training, the less blood you’ll shed in time of war.

—Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL motto

Have you ever heard of something called heart-rate variability (HRV)? It’s a real medical phenomenon discovered by a guy named Dr. Charles Morgan of Yale University that’s used to predict which soldiers are likely to perform most efficiently under the stress of combat.

Most people have a large degree of variability in their heart rates during the course of a day. In other words, your heart speeds up and slows down all the time, depending on conditions—like when someone is pointing a gun at your head or you’re lounging by the pool drinking a Dos Equis.

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Inside SEAL Team Six

What was it like to train the SEAL team that killed Osama bin Laden? Don Mann, author of 'Inside SEAL Team Six,' describes what life is like for the dedicated force.

Lights, Camera, Action!

The SEALs’ Big-Screen Moment

A new documentary relives the hunt for bin Laden with exclusive interviews and reenactments of the raid. David A. Graham on the fresh details divulged in the film.

Was it really just four months ago? With Americans fearful about a badly faltering economy, the 2012 presidential race gearing up, and the Middle East being remade daily, the death of Osama bin Laden seems like a distant occurrence—a moment of triumph that would feel out of place today—despite the looming anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

A new documentary premiering on the History Channel on Tuesday, Targeting Bin Laden, unintentionally emphasizes the distance. By canonizing the event’s history, it both celebrates the greatest coup in the war on terror and situates it solidly in the past. If this is how the event will be remembered (and it will face stiff competition from the likes of Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow), Targeting Bin Laden is a useful record of the lead-up to the fateful raid, its execution, and its aftermath, featuring exclusive interviews with key players—including President Obama.

But with Obama sticking strictly to his “no-drama” persona and conveying little emotion during his on-screen moments, the show is stolen by two other figures: Ben Rhodes, the deputy national-security adviser for strategic communications, and Ryan Zinke, a former member of SEAL Team 6 who’s now a Montana state senator.

It’s Rhodes who puts the whole saga in context. “I realized after those helicopters took off that I wouldn’t be sitting in the room where I was if it weren’t for 9/11. I saw those Twin Towers get hit with airplanes ... And that’s when I decided that I wanted to move down to Washington and try to be a part of whatever was going to happen next,” he says. “You’re sitting there thinking through all those things. Your personal story, the story of the country, what’s going to be going through the minds of the people who lost loved ones.”

GRATITUDE

Obama Privately Thanks Navy SEALs

Obama Privately Thanks Navy SEALs Charles Dharapak / AP Photo

Who carried out mission that killed bin Laden.

President Obama privately and personally thanked some of the Navy SEAL squad that killed Osama bin Laden in a trip on Friday to Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Obama awarded the team with a Presidential Unit Citation, and congratulated them: "We are going to defeat al Qaeda. We have cut off their head," he said. The mood was reportedly celebratory among the troops at the base, who wore combat boots and broke out in occasional dance moves—not dampened by recent reports that al Qaeda is planning a retaliatory attack. Obama, accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden, met with troops recently back from Afghanistan after meeting with the SEALs.

Read it at Associated Press

Licensed to Kill

Navy SEALs' Hardcore Workout

America's new obsession: the training program of the elite forces who got bin Laden. After hours of calisthenics and surf torture in cold water, you're certain to get buff, writes Tony Dokoupil.

America's new obsession: the training program of the elite forces who got bin Laden. After hours of calisthenics and surf torture in cold water, you're certain to get buff, writes Tony Dokoupil. Plus, full coverage of Osama bin Laden's death.

Days after Osama bin Laden’s demise, America's burning concern—the most urgent outstanding question, at least according to Google search trends—had nothing to do with al Qaeda, terrorism, or torture. No, the death of the world’s most-wanted man has the country thinking about something else entirely: how to get buff.

“Navy SEAL training,” followed closely by “Navy SEAL workout,” were the only bin Laden-related search terms in the Top 10 on Wednesday, narrowly beating “Jesse James” (who opened up about his ex, Sandra Bullock) and “Flowers Online” (note: Mother’s Day is Sunday). Surely, this says something unflattering about the national id, or at least American Web-surfing habits. But since inquiring minds want to know…

SEAL training is the most ferocious workout in the free world, according to Navy memoirs and other published reports, a bone-wrenching, spine-rattling affair that takes about two years, and overwhelms most men who attempt it. Those who pass go on to restock the 2,500-man rotation of active-duty SEALs. The best are eventually tapped for the elite Seal Team Six—the squad that got bin Laden. And as perhaps goes without saying, the average Googler wouldn't survive the pre-training requirements: 50 sit-ups and 42 pushups (in under two minutes each), a mile-and-a-half run (at sub seven-minute-mile pace), a 500-yard swim (in less than 13 minutes). There are no women allowed.

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The Navy SEALs' Hardcore Workout

America's new obsession: the training program of the elite forces who rescued the hostages. After hours of calisthenics and surf torture in cold water, you're certain to get buff.

Inside the Situation Room During the OBL Raid

What was it like watching a team of Navy Seals take out the world’s No. 1 terrorist? ‘It was the longest 40 minutes of my life,’ President Obama told Brian Williams in an exclusive interview. Watch as Obama, Hillary Clinton and Mike Mullen recount watching the riveting mission.

  1. Pakistan Demolishes Bin Laden Compound Play

    Pakistan Demolishes Bin Laden Compound

  2. SEALs: Obama's Weapon of Choice Play

    SEALs: Obama's Weapon of Choice

  3. Inside SEAL Team Six Play

    Inside SEAL Team Six

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Pirates In Paradise

Somalia's deadly chaos is spreading across the border into Kenya.