2 Sailors Go Missing at Sea Off Somalia Coast; Navy Search Ongoing

Components of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Strike Group (IKECSG)
Components of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Strike Group (IKECSG) and the fast combat support ship USNS Supply (T-AOE 6) transit the Strait of Hormuz, Dec 14, 2023. As part of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group (IKECSG), the Philippine Sea is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations to help ensure maritime security and stability in the Middle East region. (Keith Nowak/U.S. Navy)

Two U.S. sailors went missing at sea this week, and the Navy search was still ongoing late Friday evening, according to a statement from U.S. Central Command.

The statement said that the sailors were reported missing while conducting operations off the coast of Somalia along the horn of northeastern Africa. Central Command did not disclose the Navy ship they were from, but ABC News reported that the sailors were Navy SEALs who fell into the water during a nighttime ship-boarding mission.

The Navy currently has multiple ships deployed to the area around Somalia and the Gulf of Aden as it deals with a regular stream of attacks on merchant ships that pass through the area to and from the Suez Canal by Iran-backed Houthi militants in Yemen. The U.S. and U.K. launched airstrikes inside Yemen this week in retaliation for the attacks.

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Central Command said that “search and rescue operations are currently ongoing” but cited operational security as the reason for not releasing any more information.

They also said that "out of respect for the families affected, we will not release further information on the missing personnel at this time."

The number of sailors who go missing is small -- the Navy has about one or two instances per yearbut, unfortunately, in most cases they are never found.

The Navy has the Eisenhower carrier strike group, which is made up of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower as well as the cruiser USS Philippine Sea and destroyers USS Mason and USS Gravely, deployed to the area.

Also in the area are the destroyers USS Carney and USS Laboon.

All of those ships have been involved in shooting down missiles and drones that have been launched since October by Houthi rebels from sites in Yemen. The Houthis have claimed the attacks -- which have targeted international commercial shipping -- were aimed at hampering Israel as it wages war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The Eisenhower strike group also participated in the major series of U.S. and U.K. strikes Thursday that saw more than 20 aircraft and over 150 pieces of munitions used against more than 60 targets at 16 locations in Yemen.

The airstrikes launched by aircraft, ship and submarine came after the U.S., along with a coalition of international partners, issued a final warning earlier this month to the Houthis, ordering them to halt the assault on shipping through the busy trade corridor or face retaliation.

It was not immediately clear whether the missing sailors were related to the operations against the Houthis. Somalia has long been a source of piracy, and the U.S. aids its government in counterterrorism missions against Islamic militants there.

Related: Pentagon Reveals More Yemen Strikes Were Carried Out as Progressives in Congress Bristle

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