Four Charged in Connection With Boat That US Navy Seals Died Raiding

By Dan Whitcomb and Jasper Ward

 – Four men were charged on Thursday in connection with a vessel that was intercepted by the U.S. Navy in January while allegedly transporting Iranian-made weapons, the U.S. Justice Department said.

Two U.S. Navy SEALs were reported missing after boarding the unflagged vessel in a Jan. 11 operation near the coast of Somalia. They were declared deceased 10 days later after an exhaustive search.

Missing U.S. Navy Seals Engaged in Raid on Boat Carrying Iranian Weapons Declared Dead

“Two Navy SEALs tragically lost their lives in the operation that thwarted the defendants charged today from allegedly smuggling Iranian-made weapons that the Houthis could have used to target American forces and threaten freedom of navigation and a vital artery for commerce,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said in announcing the charges.

The U.S. has carried out a string of strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen in response to the group’s attacks on merchant ships in the Red Sea that have disrupted global trade and raised fears of supply bottlenecks.

The Justice Department said the boat’s captain, Muhammad Pahlawan, had been charged in a criminal complaint with transporting by ship explosives that he knew were intended to cause death or harm and with lying to the federal agents who boarded the vessel.

Mohammad Mazhar, Ghufran Ullah and Izhar Muhammad were each charged with lying to the federal agents. The four men were carrying Pakistani identification, prosecutors said in the criminal complaint.

A search of the boat following the raid turned up what are believed to be Iranian-made advanced weaponry, including components for medium-range ballistic missiles and anti-ship cruise missiles.

[aesop_image img=”” panorama=”off” align=”center” lightbox=”off” captionsrc=”custom” caption=”This undated photograph released by the U.S. military’s Central Command shows what it is described as Iranian-made missile components bound for Yemen’s Houthi seized off a vessel in the Arabian Sea. REUTERS/FILE PHOTO” captionposition=”left” revealfx=”off” overlay_revealfx=”off”]

(Reporting by Jasper Ward and Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Eric Beech)