A search for two U.S. Navy SEALs who went missing at sea off the coast of Somalia this month has been called off, U.S. Central Command said Sunday.
The SEALs had been on a mission chasing shipments of Iranian-made weapons bound for Houthi rebels in Yemen. A U.S. official previously confirmed to Fox News Digital that the SEALs were attempting to board a ship they suspected was falsely flagged that could be smuggling weapons.
The two special forces operators were climbing on a ladder to board a vessel while on a mission in the Gulf of Aden when high waves knocked one into the sea. The second SEAL jumped in after the first as part of Navy SEAL protocol to help a partner in distress, and they both vanished.
“We regret to announce that after a 10-day exhaustive search, our two missing U.S. Navy SEALS have not been located and their status has been changed to deceased,” U.S. CENTCOM said in a statement, adding that it is now conducting recovery operations.
Airborne and naval platforms from the U.S., Japan and Spain continuously searched more than 21,000 square miles for the missing SEALs.
Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center, the U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area Command, University of San Diego – Scripts Institute of Oceanography, and the Office of Naval Research – Oceanographic support also assisted in the search, CENTCOM said.
“We mourn the loss of our two Naval Special Warfare warriors, and we will forever honor their sacrifice and example,” Gen. Michael Erik Kurilla said in a statement. “Our prayers are with the SEALs’ families, friends, the U.S. Navy, and the entire Special Operations community during this time.”
The names of the SEALs have not been released as family notifications continue.
The SEALs’ Jan. 11 raid marked the latest seizure by the Navy and its allies of weapon shipments bound for the rebels, who have launched a series of attacks that threaten global trade in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden over Israel’s war against the Hamas terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip. The seized missile components included types likely used in those attacks.
The Navy ultimately sank the ship carrying the weapons after deeming it unsafe, Central Command said. The ship’s 14 crew were detained.
Fox News Digital’s Danielle Wallace and the Associated Press contributed to this report.