The US military has declared two Navy SEALs dead after a 10-day search failed to locate them. The missing SEALs were part of an operation to seize Iranian weapons destined for Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
According to US Central Command (Centcom), the elite special operations personnel were involved in the January 11 operation. During the mission, they boarded a vessel off the coast of Somalia and successfully seized missile components manufactured in Iran. Despite extensive efforts to find them, the two Navy SEALs remain unaccounted for, leading to the unfortunate declaration of their deaths.
“We regret to announce that after a 10-day exhaustive search, our two missing US Navy Seals have not been located and their status has been changed to deceased,” Centcom said in a statement.
“The search and rescue operation for the two Navy Seals reported missing during the boarding of an illicit dhow carrying Iranian advanced conventional weapons … concluded and we are now conducting recovery operations,” the statement said.
The US military said earlier that the Seals were lost while its naval forces were conducting a “flag verification” of a dhow near the coast of Somalia.
It said commandos based on the USS Lewis Puller, which is classed as an expeditionary mobile base vessel, executed a “complex” night-time boarding, with the support of helicopters and drones, and seized Iranian-made ballistic and cruise missiles components.
According to earlier US reports citing defence officials, the Seals approached the dhow in small special operations combat boats. At 8pm, as they were boarding the boat in high seas with 8ft (2.4-metre) swells, one Seal commando was knocked into the sea by a high wave and another dived in after him, following protocol for such an incident.
In November, Houthis began targeting ships in the Red Sea they claimed were linked to Israel – attacks they said were in support of Palestinians in Gaza, where Israeli forces are at war with Hamas.
The US and Britain carried out strikes on dozens of Houthi rebel targets earlier this month, and American forces have since hit a number of missiles that Washington says were ready to launch and posed a threat to both civilian and military vessels.