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US charges four crew members of vessel carrying suspected Iranian arms

Four men have been charged in connection with the seizure by the US Navy of a vessel allegedly carrying Iranian weapons bound for Yemen’s Houthi group, an operation which left two Navy SEALs dead.

Two Navy SEALs went missing during the January 11 operation and were declared dead after a 10-day search failed to locate them. / Photo: AFP Archive

The four crew members were taken into custody during a January 11 operation in which elite US special operations personnel boarded a dhow off the coast of Somalia and allegedly seized missile components made in Iran, the Justice Department said in a statement on Thursday.

The weaponry found aboard the boat “is allegedly consistent with the weaponry used by the Houthi rebel forces in recent attacks on merchant ships and US military ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden,” it said.

The four men — Muhammad Pahlawan, Mohammad Mazhar, Ghufran Ullah and Izhar Muhammad — made an initial appearance on Thursday before a magistrate judge in Richmond, Virginia.

Pahlawan is charged with unlawfully transporting a warhead and making false statements.

The other three are charged with providing false information to US Coast Guard officers -operating off Somalia- regarding the vessel’s crew and cargo.

The Justice Department said all four men were carrying Pakistani identification papers.

Red Sea attacks

Pahlawan faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of unlawfully transporting a warhead and all four face up to five years in prison if convicted of making false statements.

Two Navy SEALs went missing during the January 11 operation and were declared dead after a 10-day search failed to locate them.

US officials said that Navy Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Christopher J. Chambers, 37, was boarding the boat on January 11 and slipped into the gap created by high waves between the vessel and the SEALs’ combatant craft.

As Chambers fell, Navy Special Warfare Operator 2nd Class Nathan Gage Ingram, 27, jumped in to try to save him, according to US officials familiar with what happened.

The Houthis have been targeting ships in the Red Sea they claim are linked to Israel in attacks they say are in support of Palestinians in Gaza, where Israeli forces are engaged in a brutal invasion and harsh siege of entrapped civilians between occupation forces and Rafah crossing.

Source: trtworld

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