President Barack Obama traveled Friday to a military base in Kentucky to congratulate the team of U.S. Navy SEALs who took part in the raid that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden.

The meeting took place behind closed doors to protect the identities of the members of SEAL Team 6, who were collectively awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.

In a subsequent public speech to troops at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Obama praised the SEALs for a "job well done" and also had warm words for the pilots who flew the helicopters used for Sunday's mission in Pakistan.

Greeted with loud applause by members of the Fort Campbell-based 101st Airborne Division, the president described the successful raid on Bin Laden's compound as "one of the greatest intelligence military operations in our nation's history."

"We are going to ultimately defeat al Qaeda," Obama told the troops, many of them just back from a deployment to Afghanistan. "We have cut off their head and we will ultimately defeat them."

The mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, which left nearly 3,000 people dead, was killed Sunday when SEAL Team 6 stormed his compound in the northern Pakistani city of Abbottabad.

Hours before the president spoke at Fort Campbell, al Qaeda confirmed Bin Laden's death in a statement posted on the Internet.

"The blood of the holy warrior sheik, Osama bin Laden, God bless him, is too precious to us and to all Muslims to go in vain. We will remain, God willing, a curse chasing the Americans and their agents, following them outside and inside their countries," the statement said.