Two US Navy Seals who went missing during an operation to seize Iranian weapons bound for Yemen’s Houthi rebels have been declared dead after a 10-day search failed to locate them, the US military has said.

US Central Command (Centcom) had previously said that two Seals who were reported as lost at sea were involved in the 11 January operation, in which the elite special operations personnel boarded a dhow off the coast of Somalia and seized missile components made in Iran.

“We regret to announce that after a 10-day exhaustive search, our two missing US Navy Seals have not been located and their status has been changed to deceased,” Centcom said in a statement on Sunday.

“The search and rescue operation for the two Navy Seals reported missing during the boarding of an illicit dhow carrying Iranian advanced conventional weapons … concluded and we are now conducting recovery operations,” the statement said.

Centcom described the capture of the missile components as “the first seizure of lethal, Iranian-supplied advanced conventional weapons … to the Houthis since the beginning of Houthi attacks against merchant ships in November 2023.”

The US military said earlier that the Seals were lost while its naval forces were conducting a “flag verification” of a dhow near the coast of Somalia. It said commandos based on the USS Lewis Puller, which is classed as an expeditionary mobile base vessel, executed a “complex” night-time boarding, with the support of helicopters and drones, and seized Iranian-made ballistic and cruise missiles components.

According to earlier US reports citing defence officials, the Seals approached the dhow in small special operations combat boats. At 8pm, as they were boarding the boat in high seas with 8ft (2.4-metre) swells, one Seal commando was knocked into the sea by a high wave and another dived in after him, following protocol for such an incident.

In November, Houthis began targeting ships in the Red Sea they claimed were linked to Israel – attacks they said were in support of Palestinians in Gaza, where Israeli forces are at war with Hamas.

The US and Britain carried out strikes on dozens of Houthi rebel targets earlier this month, and American forces have since hit a number of missiles that Washington says were ready to launch and posed a threat to both civilian and military vessels.

The Houthis – who declared American and British interests to be legitimate targets – have yet to be deterred, and have continued to carry out attacks on ships.

About 12% 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 caused much shipping to be diverted thousands of miles around Africa.

Source » theguardian