The U.S. military has ended an “exhaustive” 10-day search for two Navy SEALs who went missing on Jan. 11 in the waters of the Gulf of Aden and are now presumed deceased, according to a statement Sunday night from U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM).
“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,” CENTCOM wrote in the statement. The searchers are now conducting recovery operations, CENTCOM said.
“We mourn the loss of our two Naval Special Warfare warriors, and we will forever honor their sacrifice and example,” said the CENCTOM commander, General Michael Erik Kurilla. “Our prayers are with the SEALs’ families, friends, the U.S. Navy, and the entire Special Operations community during this time.”
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The SEALs launched the Jan. 11 maritime interdiction operation (MIO) from a floating base, the USS Lewis B. Puller. That ship is assigned to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. The SEALs embarked in rough seas during a lunar phase known as the new moon, when the nighttime skies are darkest.
Supported by helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the SEALs executed a complex boarding of the dhow in international waters of the Arabian Sea, CENTCOM said.
The SEALs proceeded to climb aboard the dhow, using a caving ladder. One SEAL was knocked off the ladder by a high wave. A second SEAL immediately jumped in to save the first. Both disappeared amid the turbulent waves, a civilian official said.
While a search mission was underway, others on the team boarded the dhow. Acting under international law, they searched the vessel. The SEALs took the crew into custody, and confiscated the missile parts. With the Americans and their prisoners safely off the dhow, the SEALs sank the vessel.
“During the search operation, airborne and naval platforms from the U.S., Japan, and Spain continuously searched more than 21,000 square miles to locate our missing teammates,” CENTCOM said. “Out of respect for the families, no further information will be released at this time.”