CENTCOM: Iranian Weapons Seized in VBSS, Two SEALs Missing

Dhwo Seized in VBSS (Jan 2024)

(CENTCOM press release, 16 Jan 2024). On 11 January 2024, while conducting a flag verification, U.S. CENTCOM Navy forces conducted a night-time seizure of a dhow conducting illegal transport of advanced lethal aid from Iran to resupply Houthi forces in Yemen as part of the Houthis’ ongoing campaign of attacks against international merchant shipping.

Map of Somalia

U.S. Navy SEALs operating from USS Lewis B Puller (ESB 3), supported by helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), executed a complex boarding of the dhow near the coast of Somalia in international waters of the Arabian Sea, seizing Iranian-made ballistic missile and cruise missiles components. Seized items include propulsion, guidance, and warheads for Houthi medium range ballistic missiles (MRBMs) and anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs), as well as air defense associated components. Initial analysis indicates these same weapons have been employed by the Houthis to threaten and attack innocent mariners on international merchant ships transiting in the Red Sea.

Iranian Weapons Seized in VBSS (Jan 2024)

This is the first seizure of lethal, Iranian-supplied advanced conventional weapons (ACW) to the Houthis since the beginning of Houthi attacks against merchant ships in November 2023. The interdiction also constitutes the first seizure of advanced Iranian-manufactured ballistic missile and cruise missile components by the U.S. Navy since November 2019. The direct or indirect supply, sale, or transfer of weapons to the Houthis in Yemen violates U.N. Security Resolution 2216 and international law.

Two U.S. Navy SEALs previously reported as lost at sea were directly involved in this operation. “We are conducting an exhaustive search for our missing teammates,” said General Michael Erik Kurilla, USCENTCOM Commander.

Iranian Weapons Seized VBSS

The dhow was deemed unsafe and sunk by U.S. Navy forces. Disposition of the 14 dhow crewmembers is being determined in accordance with international law.

Iranian Weapon Seized in Dhow Jan 2024

“It is clear that Iran continues shipment of advanced lethal aid to the Houthis. This is yet another example of how Iran actively sows instability throughout the region in direct violation of U.N. Security Resolution 2216 and international law,” said General Michael Erik Kurilla, “We will continue to work with regional and international partners to expose and interdict these efforts, and ultimately to reestablish freedom of navigation.”


This article was first published by U.S. Central Command on January 16, 2024.

Photos from CENTCOM Twitter account dated January 16, 2024. Map by SOF News derived from CIA maps (view larger version). Information about Vessel Boarding Search and Seizure (VBSS) operations. Also known as Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure.