Missing Navy SEALs are now presumed dead after entering the

Missing Navy SEALs are now presumed dead after entering the water during a night mission – ABC News

The US military has completed a “comprehensive” 10-day search and rescue mission for two Navy SEALs who went missing in the waters of the Gulf of Aden on January 11 and are now presumed deceased, according to a new statement from US Central Command.

The military is conducting recovery operations for service members, CENTCOM said Sunday evening.

“We mourn the loss of our two Naval Special Warfare warriors and will forever honor their sacrifice and example. Our prayers are with the families of the SEALs, friends, the U.S. Navy and the entire Special Operations community at this time,” said General . Michael Erik Kurilla, CENTCOM commander, said in a statement.

Military officials said the United States, Japan and Spain had searched “more than 21,000 square miles” for the missing SEALs, scouring the Gulf off the coast of Somalia – without success.

“Out of respect for the families, no further information will be released at this time,” CENTCOM said.

The two SEALs entered the water in mid-January during a nighttime boarding mission to stop a dhow suspected of carrying Iranian-made weapons for Houthi fighters in Yemen, military officials said.

Dhows are small fishing or cargo vessels used by Iran to smuggle weapons.

As a small Navy vessel approached the dhow on Jan. 11, one of the SEALs encountered rough water and a second SEAL, following protocol, jumped into the water in an attempt to rescue him, authorities said.

The rest of the SEALs continued the mission on the dhow, seizing Iranian-made ballistic and cruise missile parts as well as warheads similar to those used by the Houthis in more than 30 attacks on merchant vessels in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. officials said.

The Houthis said their attacks were in response to Israel's bombing of the Gaza Strip, as the Israelis targeted Hamas militants in retaliation for Hamas' Oct. 7 terror attack.

On January 12, 2024, an initial search of the dhow revealed suspicious material throughout the holds. USCENTCOM

For years, the U.S. Navy has intercepted dhows in the Gulf of Aden suspected of transporting Iranian-made weapons to the Houthis.

In these operations, boarding teams typically pull the dhows aside in small watercraft to conduct a “flag check” mission when the dhow has no flag or has replaced its flag to conceal smuggling.

The SEALs' attack was the first since the Houthis began their attacks, which were largely repelled by US, French and British warships.

The SEALs operated from the USS Lewis B Puller, an expeditionary sea base and converted freighter with helicopter landing decks and the ability to launch small watercraft.

“In the winter, sea swells are typically 8 to 12 feet,” said Eric Oehlerich, an ABC News contributor and retired SEAL commander. “The horizon is flat, so 8-12 feet is 8 feet above the flat horizon – and then eight feet, it's like a 16-foot wave.”

On January 10, 2024, a dhow was identified and the dhow was determined to be engaged in smuggling.USCENTCOM

According to Oehlerich, these high water conditions increase the risk of nighttime ship boardings that occur in pitch darkness.

He described it as one of the most difficult missions a SEAL can undertake and requires constant training.

“You run the risk of your boat capsizing in close proximity to larger ships. “You have to set up a fixed ladder point, you have to climb a ladder at night over the open sea between two ships – they collide with each other – and then you get in,” he said.

“And then your problem starts with what you're going to do… with whoever is on board that boat,” he added.

All material offloaded from the dhow was confirmed to be Advanced Conventional Weapons (ACW).USCENTCOM

The Jan. 11 seizure also marked the first time since November 2019 that the U.S. Navy captured Iranian-made components of ballistic and cruise missiles believed to be intended for the Houthis.

The military said the 14 sailors aboard the dhow had been disembarked and were in U.S. custody, but their future status had yet to be determined.

After they were picked up by the dhow, the ship was deemed unsafe and was sunk by naval forces.