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4 charged after 2 Navy SEALs killed

Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at the Department of Justice press conference, June 25, 2021. (Department of Justice/Released)
February 23, 2024

The U.S. Justice Department announced charges Thursday against four foreign nationals after U.S. Navy SEALs interdicted a dhow vessel in the Arabian Sea that was allegedly transporting Iranian weapons to Houthi terrorists in Yemen. The mission, which was conducted in January, resulted in the death of two Navy SEALs.

In Thursday’s Justice Department press release, Attorney General Merrick Garland expressed condolences to the families and friends of the two Navy Seals who died during the interdiction mission on January 11 in the Arabian Sea.

Garland added, “The charges resulting from that interdiction make clear that the Justice Department will use every legal authority to hold accountable those who facilitate the flow of weapons from Iran to Houthi rebel forces, Hamas, and other groups that endanger the security of the United States and our allies.”

Assistant Director David Sundberg from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Washington Field Office explained that the arrest of the four foreign nationals and the Justice Department’s charges will send a warning to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Sundberg said, “Today’s complaint sends a message that acting as a proxy for the IRGC in an effort to bring harm to U.S. persons overseas will not be tolerated by the U.S. Government.”

The Justice Department noted that U.S. Central Command Navy forces conducted the interdiction operation with the USS Lewis B. Puller on January 11, resulting in Navy Special Warfare Operator 2nd Class Nathan Gage Ingram falling into the Arabian Sea. After Ingram fell into the sea, Navy Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Christopher J. Chambers jumped overboard to rescue Ingram.

READ MORE: 2 US Navy SEALs killed

While the Navy conducted search and rescue operations to locate the two Navy SEALs, both service members were officially declared dead on January 22.

As part of the interdiction mission, the Navy discovered 14 individuals on the dhow vessel, located near the coast of Somalia. After searching the ship, U.S. service members allegedly discovered and seized Iranian weapons being transported to Houthi terrorists.

The Justice Department noted that a preliminary analysis of the weapons revealed “critical components” for anti-ship cruise missiles, medium-range ballistic missiles, a warhead, and other weaponry.

After obtaining arrest warrants on February 11 for four of the foreign nationals found on the ship, the military transferred Muhammad Pahlawan, Mohammad Mazhar, Ghufran Ullah, and Izhar Muhammad to the Eastern District of Virginia.  

According to the Justice Department’s press release, Pahlawan has been charged with “intentionally and unlawfully transporting” a warhead while knowing it would be used by Houthi terrorists against both commercial and military vessels in the region. Pahlawan has also been charged with “providing materially false information” to the U.S. Coast Guard during the interdiction mission.

Mazhar, Ullah, and Muhammad have also been charged with “providing materially false information to U.S. Coast Guard officers.”