The U.S. Central Command announced on Tuesday that the U.S. Navy intercepted a dhow boat illegally transporting advanced lethal aid from Iran to resupply Houthi forces in Yemen.
The interception occurred on January 11, 2024, during a flag verification, revealing a covert attempt to support the ongoing Houthi campaign against international merchant shipping.
Operating from the USS Lewis B Puller (ESB 3), U.S. Navy SEALs, supported by helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), conducted a sophisticated boarding of the dhow near the coast of Somalia in international waters of the Arabian Sea. The seizure included Iranian-made components for ballistic missiles and cruise missiles, encompassing propulsion, guidance, and warheads for Houthi medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs) and anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs), along with air defense-related components. Preliminary analysis links these weapons to previous Houthi attacks on international merchant ships in the Red Sea.
This marks the first interception of lethal Iranian-supplied advanced conventional weapons (ACW) to the Houthis since the initiation of Houthi attacks against merchant ships in November 2023. Furthermore, it constitutes the U.S. Navy’s first seizure of advanced Iranian-manufactured ballistic missile and cruise missile components since November 2019. The supply of weapons to the Houthis violates U.N. Security Resolution 2216 and international law.
Tragically, two U.S. Navy SEALs reported as lost at sea were directly involved in the operation. General Michael Erik Kurilla, USCENTCOM Commander, emphasized the exhaustive search for the missing teammates.
Due to safety concerns, the dhow was intentionally sunk by U.S. Navy forces. The fate of the 14 dhow crewmembers will be determined in accordance with international law.
General Michael Erik Kurilla condemned Iran’s persistent shipment of advanced lethal aid to the Houthis, citing it as a clear violation of U.N. Security Resolution 2216 and international law. He underscored the commitment to collaborate with regional and international partners to expose and interdict such efforts, with the ultimate goal of restoring freedom of navigation in the region.