Two U.S. Navy SEALs involved in a mission off the coast of Somalia have been declared dead after a 10-day intensive search operation.
U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmed on January 21 that the SEALs went missing on January 11 during a mission to intercept a ship suspected of carrying Iranian weapons.
SEALs missing despite intensive search following Arabian Sea operation
Despite a comprehensive search effort, they were not located. The SEALs were part of a team that boarded a dhow in the Arabian Sea, a vessel reportedly transporting advanced Iranian weapons.
The operation, supported by the USS Lewis B Puller and aided by helicopters, resulted in the seizure of ballistic missile and cruise missile components.
CENTCOM deployed various airborne and naval platforms, including assets from Japan and Spain, to search over 21,000 square miles.
U.S. official details SEALs’ disappearance during dhow operation near Somalia
A U.S. defense official, speaking anonymously, detailed the events leading to the SEALs’ disappearance.
As they attempted to board the dhow, one SEAL fell into the rough sea, prompting the other to jump in for a rescue. Both have been missing since that incident.
The dhow’s crew reportedly intended to transfer Iranian ballistic missile components near Somalia’s coast.
SEALs’ operation unrelated to strikes in Yemen
The SEALs’ mission, according to National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, was a routine interdiction operation distinct from U.S. retaliatory strikes in Yemen.
“This was normal interdiction operations that we’ve been conducting for some time to try to disrupt that flow of weapons supplies to Yemen,” Kirby stated.
US, UK strike Houthis in Yemen; Biden vows to protect maritime freedom
Simultaneously, U.S. and British naval forces conducted multiple strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen on January 11.
President Joe Biden emphasized that these strikes were a direct response to Houthi attacks on maritime vessels in the Red Sea.
He asserted that the U.S. and its allies are committed to maintaining freedom of navigation and responding to hostile acts.
Houthis in longstanding Yemen conflict, now targeting Israel-Hamas
The Houthis, a Zaydi Shiite movement known as Ansar Allah, have been engaged in a conflict with Yemen’s government since 2004.
Although there have been recent moves towards a ceasefire in Yemen, the Houthis have shifted focus to the Israel-Hamas conflict, launching attacks to impact the Israeli side.
CENTCOM commander Eric Kurilla mourns loss of SEALs
General Michael Erik Kurilla, the commander of CENTCOM, expressed profound grief over the loss, honoring the SEALs’ sacrifice and commitment.
“We mourn the loss of our two Naval Special Warfare warriors, and we will forever honor their sacrifice and example,” he said.
The incident leaves a somber mark on the U.S. military community, with national prayers and condolences extended to the families and friends of the fallen SEALs.