2 Navy SEALs have been lost at sea for a week after a night mission near Somalia. The US hasn't given up hope.

  • Two Navy SEALs are missing after one fell into the water near Somalia on January 11.

  • Search-and-rescue operations are still ongoing, a defense official told BI on Friday.

  • Reports say the pair were boarding a vessel when one fell, and the other jumped in to help.

Two Navy SEALs remain missing off the coast of Somalia after one fell into the water during a nighttime mission on January 11.

The pair were climbing aboard a vessel while on a mission in the Gulf of Aden when high waves knocked one into the sea, the AP reported.

The second SEAL jumped in after him as part of Navy SEAL protocol to help a comrade in danger, the report said, and they both vanished.

The US officials spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity.

In a statement on Tuesday, General Michael Erik Kurilla, the commander of US Central Command, said: "We are conducting an exhaustive search for our missing teammates."

A defense official told BI on Friday morning that search-and-rescue operations were still ongoing.

The SEALs were part of a mission to seize Iranian-made missile components and warheads on a ship off the coast of Somalia when the incident occurred, CENTCOM said in Tuesday's statement.

CENTCOM described the ship as a dhow, which is a small boat often used in the Red Sea.

Dhow carrying Iranian-made missile components bound for Yemen's Houthi in the Arabian Sea
A photo of the dhow carrying Iranian-made missile components bound for Yemen's Houthi in the Arabian Sea seen by the US Central Command on January 10, 2024.USCENTCOM

The SEALs set out from the USS Lewis B. Puller on a "complex" operation supported by helicopters and drones, CENTCOM said.

They traveled to the dhow using small combat craft piloted by naval special-warfare crew, AP reported on Monday, citing a US defense official.

Speaking to The Washington Post Monday, unnamed officials said that one of the SEALs slipped on a ladder while trying to board the dhow. The other dove in to assist their comrade, per the Post.

A dozen crew members on the dhow were taken into custody, the AP reported.

"Disposition of the 14 dhow crewmembers is being determined in accordance with international law," CENTCOM said. It said the dhow was sunk after being deemed unsafe.

The accident happened around 8 p.m. local time, per AP.

The Gulf of Aden has been a focal point of Navy activity in recent weeks.

Officials initially told the AP and The Washington Post that the incident wasn't related to the ongoing United States response to Houthi-led attacks on shipping in the Red Sea or to Iran seizing an oil tanker.

On Sunday, the National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told CBS's "Face The Nation" that the search was "still ongoing" and that the vessel had been involved in a "normal interdiction" operation to try to disrupt the flow of weapon supplies to Yemen.

"It's not related to the strikes that we took against the Houthis," he said.

But in its statement on Tuesday CENTCOM said that the US believes the seized weapons were being used by the Houthis in their attacks on commercial shipping.

Two US officials earlier gave a similar account to the Post.

The Post reported that the US forces often worked with other nations on counter-piracy missions in the area, which sometimes included boarding vessels.

The AP reported that the US Navy often conducted such missions to intercept weapons on ships heading for Houthi-controlled Yemen.

CENTCOM on Tuesday said the mission was the first seizure of lethal Iranian-supplied weapons from the Houthis since the attacks began in November last year.

It also described it as "the first seizure of advanced Iranian-manufactured ballistic missile and cruise missile components by the US Navy since November 2019."

Correction: January 15, 2024 — An earlier version of this story misstated when the US Central Command's statement was released. It was released Friday, not Saturday. It also incorrectly described John Kirby's position. He's a spokesperson for the National Security Council, not the Pentagon.

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