4 charged with transporting suspected Iranian-made weapons; 2 Navy SEALS died during the mission

Multiple foreign nationals were arrested on Thursday in connection with transporting suspected Iranian-made weapons on a vessel that the United States Navy had intercepted.

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The four people were charged with transporting suspected Iranian-made weapons, according to The Associated Press. The charges came after a raid last month on a small boat in the Arabian Sea near Somalia involving the United States Navy.

One of the SEALs slipped and fell between a vessel and the SEALs’ craft, U.S. officials said, according to the AP. Another Navy SEAL jumped in trying to save him.

The Navy declared the men dead after a 10-day search and identified the men as Special Operator First Class Christopher J. Chambers, 37, and Special Operator Second Class Nathan Gage Ingram, 27, according to The New York Times.

“The Justice Department extends our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of the two Navy SEALs who lost their lives on January 11th while conducting an operation in the Arabian Sea,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “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.”

The four people charged have been identified as Muhammad Pahlawan, Mohammad Mazhar, Ghufran Ullah and Izhar Muhammad. The AP reported that Pahlawan was charged with attempting to smuggle advanced missile components and providing false information to U.S. Coast Guard officials as they were making their way on the vessel. Mazhar, Ullah and Muhammad were charged with providing false information.

The Justice Department said that Pahlawan is facing 20 years in prison if he is convicted of unlawfully transporting a warhead. All four men face up to five years in prison if convicted of providing false information.

A criminal complaint obtained by the AP said that the four charged were transporting what was believed to be Iranian-made missile components. These kinds of Iranian-made missile components were believed by officials to have been used by Houthi rebel forces.

“As charged, Mr. Pahlawan attempted to smuggle advanced missile components, including a warhead, to Houthi rebels for use against cargo ships and U.S. vessels sailing across the Horn of Africa,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “The Justice Department, together with U.S. agency partners, is working tirelessly to deny malign actors the means to threaten international shipping and imperil the lives of our men and women in uniform.”

“The flow of missiles and other advanced weaponry from Iran to Houthi rebel forces in Yemen threatens the people and interests of America and our partners in the region,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco. “Two Navy SEALs tragically lost their lives in the operation that thwarted the defendants charged today from allegedly smuggling Iranian-made weapons that the Houthis could have used to target American forces and threaten freedom of navigation and a vital artery for commerce. Alongside our partners around the world, the Justice Department will continue to deploy every available tool to combat this grave threat.”

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