In the Gulf of Aden, U.S. Navy ships and aircraft conducted extensive search operations on Monday to locate two missing U.S. Navy SEALs. New details emerged about their mission, revealing their objective to board and seize control of a vessel transporting components for medium-range Iranian ballistic missiles bound for Somalia, a U.S. defense official told the Associated Press.
The unnamed official disclosed that the crew aboard the vessel, lacking a country flag, intended to transfer missile parts, including warheads and engines, to another boat off the coast of Somalia. The Navy identified this particular vessel as having a history of illicitly transporting weapons from Iran to Somalia.
The SEALs embarked on the nighttime mission from the USS Lewis B. Puller. Utilizing small special operations combat craft operated by naval special warfare personnel, they approached the targeted boat. During the boarding operation in challenging sea conditions around 8 p.m. local time, one SEAL was swept off by high waves, prompting a teammate to go in after him. Both SEALs are now missing. The small boat, carrying about a dozen crew members, was successfully boarded, and the crew, lacking proper documentation, was taken into custody. A subsequent search of the vessel led to the confiscation of weapons, and the boat was deliberately sunk, a standard procedure involving creating openings in the hull.
U.S. officials emphasized that the Gulf of Aden waters are warm, and Navy SEALs are trained for emergencies in such environments. The search for the missing SEALs continued on Monday, involving Navy ships, helicopters, and drones.
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