Missing US Navy Seals declared dead after raid on boat ‘carrying Iranian weapons to Houthis’

Two US Navy Seals who went missing during a night-time raid on a boat off Somalia have been declared dead after a 10-day search failed to find them, military officials have said.

The unnamed pair were reported missing in the Gulf of Aden after commandos targeted the vessel, which was carrying Iranian-made weapons to the Houthi rebels in Yemen, US Central Command (Centcom) said on X.

As the team was boarding the dhow on 11 January, one of them fell into the water during rough seas, and a colleague dived in to help, officials said.

Iranian-made missile components bound for Yemen's Houthi seized off a vessel in the Arabian Sea
Pic: U.S. Central Command/AP
The US military displayed some of the Iranian-made missile components it says it seized in the raid. Pic: Centcom/AP

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Centcom said in a statement: “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.

“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.”

Centcom commander General Michael Erik Kurilla said: “We mourn the loss of our two naval special warfare warriors, and we will forever honour their sacrifice and example.

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“Our prayers are with the Seals’ families, friends, the US Navy, and the entire special operations community during this time.”

In the raid, commandos seized an array of Iranian-made weaponry, including cruise and ballistic missile components such as propulsion and guidance devices and warheads, as well as air defence parts, Centcom said.

The Seals are described on as “a nimble, elite maritime military force suited for all aspects of unconventional warfare”. Their roles include “conducting insertions and extractions by sea, air or land to accomplish covert, special warfare/special operations missions”.

21,000 square mile search

Spain and Japan helped US teams search more than 21,000 square miles of ocean for the pair, but the 10-day mission had now moved from rescue to recovery, according to Centcom.

Iran is the key backer of the Houthis, the Shia fighters who have been attacking commercial shipping in the Red Sea in support, they say, of Hamas which is being attacked by Israeli forces in Gaza.

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As fears the Israel-Hamas war will lead to a wider regional conflict grow, the US appears to be getting further embroiled.

On Saturday, a number of US soldiers were wounded when Iran-backed armed groups attacked the al Assad airbase in Iraq.

It came hours after Tehran vowed revenge and blamed Israel for a deadly attack on a building housing its elite forces in the Syrian capital, Damascus.

Attacks on US forces in Iraq and Syria have increased since Israel began retaliating, with Washington’s support, for Hamas‘s 7 October massacre last year.

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‘Two-state solution is dead’

More than 140 attacks on US assets and personnel have been recorded by Iranian-backed proxy groups, Voice Of America said.

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The US has carried out a string of strikes against Houthi targets in response to the fighters’ attacks on merchant ships in the Red Sea that have disrupted global trade and raised fears of supply bottlenecks.

On Saturday, US forces hit a Houthi anti-ship missile aimed into the Gulf of Aden and ready to fire, and earlier this month, US forces killed 10 Houthi fighters in the Red Sea.

On Sunday, John Bolton, the former US ambassador to the UN, told Sky News the US could send several Iranian ships helping the Houthis “to the bottom of the Red Sea”.

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He said: “We could attack air defence sites inside Iran. We could go after military headquarters of the Quds Force. We could go after camps where weapons and training have been transferred to various militia groups.

“Our attacks wouldn’t necessarily threaten the mullahs in Tehran, but as long as they are engaged in all this activity in the region – cost free to them – they will continue to do it.

“We have no deterrence now in the region, not even for goodness sake, against the Houthis.”

Watch new foreign affairs show The World with Yalda Hakim from Monday to Thursday between 9pm and 10pm on Sky News.

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