The U.S. has charged four foreign nationals with shipping Iranian-made weapon parts to the Houthi rebels in Yemen, a shipment that was seized by Navy SEALS in a daring raid last month off the coast of Somalia.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) unsealed an indictment Thursday against Muhammad Pahlawan, Mohammad Mazhar, Ghufran Ullah and Izhar Muhammad, accusing them of providing false information to U.S. Coast Guard officers after their arrest.

Pahlawan was additionally charged with unlawfully transporting a warhead with the knowledge it would be used by Houthi rebels to target commercial and naval vessels in the Red Sea, part of a campaign the group has carried out in protest to the Israeli war in Gaza.

Matthew Olsen, the DOJ’s assistant attorney general for national security, said Pahlawan “attempted to smuggle advanced missile components, including a warhead, to Houthi rebels for use against cargo ships and U.S. vessels.”

“The Justice Department, together with U.S. agency partners, is working tirelessly to deny malign actors the means to threaten international shipping and imperil the lives of our men and women in uniform,” Olsen said in a statement.

On Jan. 11 in the Arabian Sea, Navy SEALS boarded a dhow, a small boat, carrying missile components and weapons parts to Yemen. The SEALS were deployed off the Lewis B. Puller, an expeditionary mobile base vessel.

The SEALS captured 14 crew members on the boat and seized the weapons parts, which the U.S. says would have been used for medium-range ballistic missiles and anti-ship cruise missiles.

During the raid, two SEALS fell into the rough waters and were later declared dead. The 14 crew members were taken back to the Lewis B. Puller and the four defendants charged Thursday were eventually arrested, while the other 10 members were taken into custody as witnesses, according to the DOJ.

All four charged defendants had Pakistani identification cards, according to the DOJ. They were taken to Virginia for processing.

The seized components in the raid were Iranian-made, according to the DOJ. Iran backs the Houthis, along with a regional network of proxy groups across the Middle East.

The Houthis have attacked commercial shipping relentlessly since November, hijacking one vessel and claiming to have sunk another this week. Since January, the U.S. has launched targeted strikes in Yemen to degrade Houthi capabilities, but fighters have continued their pace of attacks.

Pahlawan faces up to 20 years in prison for his charges, and all four defendants face up to five years in prison for making false statements.

DOJ Attorney General Merrick Garland said the U.S. “will use every legal authority to hold accountable those who facilitate the flow of weapons from Iran to Houthi rebel forces, Hamas, and other groups that endanger the security of the United States and our allies.”

Source » thehill