Two Navy SEALs who went missing on January 11 during a night mission off the coast of Somalia were declared deceased on Sunday by military officials.
Attempts to rescue the missing servicemen concluded following a 10-day “exhaustive search” spanning 21,000 square miles, CENTCOM announced in a statement on social media. Operations to recover their remains will continue.
“We mourn the loss of our two Naval Special Warfare warriors, and we will forever honor their sacrifice and example. Our prayers are with the SEALs’ families, friends, the US Navy, and the entire Special Operations community during this time,” General Michael Erik Kurilla, USCENTCOM Commander, said in the statement.
The pair, whose names have not been released, disappeared while on a mission to seize Iranian warheads being sent to Yemen when they were lost at sea, according to a CENTCOM statement released on January 16.
High waves in the Gulf of Aden knocked one of the SEALs into the sea as they were climbing aboard a vessel during their mission, AP reported. The second SEAL jumped in after his comrade and they both vanished.
The vessel targeted by the SEALs was ultimately intercepted. It was found to be carrying warheads for medium-range ballistic missiles as well as anti-ship cruise missiles and components associated with air defense, per CENTCOM.
The Department of Defense referred Business Insider to CENTCOM in response to a request for comment. Representatives for CENTCOM did not immediately respond to a request for comment from BI.
With their highly specialized training, it is extremely rare for SEALs to be lost overboard while on a mission, which initially gave some hope that the pair would ultimately be found. The last known SEAL overboard incident was in 2013 when 33-year-old special warfare operator 1st class Matthew John Leathers went missing at sea following a training exercise off the coast of Hawaii.
Leathers was never found.
While the exact number of total SEALs lost at sea or killed during overseas missions is highly classified, the nonprofit Navy SEAL Foundation maintains a list of 125 SEAL service members who it says have died while on active duty, diplomatic service, or due to service-connected injuries since 2002.
“It’s not something that happens often,” Joe Buccino, former director of communications at CENTCOM, previously told BI.