The 10-day search to rescue two Navy SEALs lost in the Arabian Sea during a mission to board a ship and confiscate Iranian-made weapons has been officially concluded, and the sailors are now considered deceased, according to a statement from U.S. Central Command on Sunday.
The search effort has been transitioned to a recovery operation, and the names of the SEALs have not been released pending family notifications. The search included ships and aircraft from the U.S., Japan, and Spain, covering more than 21,000 square miles. Assistance was provided by organizations such as the Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center, the U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area Command, the University of San Diego – Scripts Institute of Oceanography, and the Office of Naval Research.
“We mourn the loss of our two Naval Special Warfare warriors, and we will forever honor their sacrifice and example,” stated Gen. Erik Kurilla, head of U.S. Central Command. “Our prayers are with the SEALs’ families, friends, the U.S. Navy, and the entire Special Operations community during this time.”
The incident occurred during a raid on January 11, targeting an unflagged ship carrying illicit Iranian-made weapons destined for Houthi rebels in Yemen. As the SEALs were boarding the ship, one went under in heavy seas, prompting a teammate to attempt a rescue. The commandos launched from the USS Lewis B. Puller, a mobile sea base, and were supported by drones and helicopters. They utilized small special operations combat craft operated by naval special warfare crew to reach the target.
During the raid, the SEALs seized various Iranian-made weaponry, including cruise and ballistic missile components such as propulsion and guidance devices, warheads, and air defense parts, according to Central Command. This marked the latest interception by the U.S. Navy and its allies of weapon shipments headed for rebels who have been involved in attacks threatening global trade in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden due to Israel’s conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The seized missile components were likely to be used in such attacks. Following the mission, the U.S. Navy decided to sink the ship carrying the confiscated weapons, deeming it unsafe. The ship’s 14 crew members were detained after the operation.