Two operatives of the US Navy SEALs, a special forces combat unit of the Navy, are missing following a night-time covert operation conducted to stop the supply of lethal weapons from Iran to the Houthi rebels, the US Central Command said.
The US Central Command or CENTCOM is one of the 11 combat commands and operates in the Middle East region. Last week on January 11, the US Navy SEALs, operating from USS Lewis B Puller, an expeditionary sea base for multipurpose maritime operations.
US Navy SEALs Special Op
The Navy SEALs, supported by helicopters and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) successfully docked the vessel near the coast of Somalia in the international water in the Arabian Sea and seized Iranian-made ballistic missiles, cruise missile components, propulsion, guidance, and warheads for Houthi medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs) and anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs), as well as air defence associated components.
The initial analysis by the US says that the components and weapons seized by the Navy SEALs have been used by the Houthis to conduct drone, and missile strikes on merchant ships in the Red Sea.
The inference also suggests a direct link between Iran and the Houthi strikes in the Red Sea. Security and defence experts fear that a spillover event may take place if the attacks continue and Iran and its proxies come into confrontation with US-led allies in this vital sea trade route.
This is the first seizure of lethal, Iranian-supplied advanced conventional weapons (ACW) to the Houthis since the beginning of Houthi attacks against merchant ships in November 2023, the CENTCOM said.
The interdiction also constitutes the first seizure of advanced Iranian-manufactured ballistic missile and cruise missile components by the US Navy since November 2019.
“It is clear that Iran continues shipment of advanced lethal aid to the Houthis. This is yet another example of how Iran actively sows instability throughout the region in direct violation of UN Security Resolution 2216 and international law,” said US CENTCOM Commander, General Michael Erik Kurilla.
Missing US Navy SEALs
Two U.S. Navy SEALs previously reported as lost at sea were directly involved in this operation. “We are conducting an exhaustive search for our missing teammates,” the US CENTCOM Commander said.
The US Navy sank the vessel after finding it unsafe and the 14 crew members have been captured and will be prosecuted as per international law.
“Axis Of Resistance” vs ‘Operation Prosperity Guardian’
Yesterday, the Houthi rebels attacked a US cargo vessel in the Red Sea. The Marshall Islands-flagged Gibraltar Eagle suffered a fire on board but no casualties and remained seaworthy, the US Central Command said.
The Houthis fired an anti-ship ballistic missile and is part of its “axis of resistance” movement against Israel and its allies and the attacks are being carried out “in solidarity with Gaza”. Over 24,000 people have died in Gaza and the war has entered its 100th day.
Around 12 per cent of global trade normally passes through the Bab al-Mandeb Strait, the Red Sea’s entrance between southwest Yemen and Djibouti, but the rebel attacks have affected trade flows.
The US-led allies launched ‘Operation Prosperity Guardian’ last month to protect the vital sea routes but the Houthis have continued their attacks despite several warnings.