Two Navy SEALs Lost Overboard During Vessel Intercept off Somalia

U.S. Navy SEALs conduct a vessel boarding exercise off Greece, 2022 (USN file image)

Published Jan 14, 2024 11:42 PM by The Maritime Executive

Two U.S. Navy SEALs who went missing off Somalia on Saturday were on a mission to board a vessel suspected of smuggling weapons to Yemen, the Washington Post reported Sunday. 

On January 13, U.S. Central Command reported that two sailors had gone missing and that search and rescue operations were under way. They were reported missing at sea while conducting operations off the coast of Somalia, but CENTCOM said for operational security purposes, it "would not release additional information until the personnel recovery operation is complete.”

U.S. officials told the AP on Saturday that the missing personnel were Navy SEALS on an interdiction mission, and that it was a separate operation from the shipping-protection efforts ongoing in the Red Sea.

On Sunday, two U.S. officials confirmed to The Washington Post that the two SEALs were lost during a ship-boarding operation to intercept Yemen-bound weaponry. One of them was knocked off a ladder by a wave and went into the water, and another team member jumped in to help. The officials also clarified the timeline: the boarding mishap occurred Thursday, which would appear to put it before the large-scale joint strike on Houthi positions launched early Friday. 

The outcome of the boarding mission was not released, but the officials confirmed that the task was to interdict a shipment of Iranian-made weapons to Houthi militants. This is a regularly-recurring interdiction task in the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman.

The two SEALs remained missing and search operations were still under way as of Sunday.