Navy Seals, Archive
Navy Seals, ArchiveiStock

Two United States Navy SEALs have been missing since last Thursday after a ship-boarding operation in the Gulf of Aden near Somalia went amiss.

The Washington Post reported on Sunday, citing two US sources, that the commandos were sent to look for suspected Iranian weapons en route to Houthi militants in Yemen, who in recent months have been relentlessly targeting commercial traffic in the Red Sea.

According to the officials, the two SEALs were preparing to board the ship in rough seas when one of them slipped from a ladder. The second sailor, seeing their comrade fall into the water, dove in to help.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, mentioned the incident on Sunday while speaking to CBS News's Face the Nation. He portrayed the mission as part of the US military’s ongoing activity to disrupt Iran’s transfer of weapons to Yemen. He distinguished between that activity and the US-led airstrikes on Houthi targets there earlier in the day, emphasizing that the two were “not related."

The officials told the Washington Post that search-and-rescue operations are ongoing in the Gulf of Aden, where powerful swells and exhaustion are more of a concern than hypothermia in the warm climate. They added that commanders are still hopeful the two SEALs will be found alive. The missing personnel have not been publicly identified.