US Central Command has reported that two US Navy Seals, who went missing during an operation to intercept Iranian-made weapons destined for Yemen’s Houthi rebels, are now believed to be dead. The incident occurred on January 11 off the coast of Somalia. One Seal was swept away by the sea and the other followed protocol and jumped in to rescue him. Efforts are now underway to recover their bodies.
The commander of Central Command, Gen Michael Erik Kurilla, expressed his condolences, stating that the two Seals’ sacrifice and example would be forever honored. A search operation involving US, Japanese and Spanish air and naval units covered over 21,000 sq miles for 10 days but failed to locate the Seals.
President Joe Biden also expressed his condolences, stating that the Seals represented the best of the country and had pledged their lives to protect their fellow Americans. The first Seal was reportedly swept into heavy seas during a night mission while boarding a dhow carrying the weapons. The second Seal then entered the water to attempt a rescue.
US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin also expressed his sorrow and gratitude to those who worked tirelessly in the search and rescue efforts. Central Command reported that the seized weapons included warheads for Houthi medium-range ballistic missiles and anti-ship cruise missiles, as well as parts for air defense systems.
The supply of weapons to the Houthis is considered a violation of a 2015 United Nations Security Resolution and international law. The Houthis have targeted dozens of vessels, forcing hundreds of cargo ships and tankers to reroute around Africa’s southern tip. The group has also begun attacking ships associated with the US and UK following airstrikes by these countries against Houthi positions in Yemen. Both countries have stated they are not seeking conflict with the Houthis but are trying to protect international trade routes.