Two US Navy SEALs missing off the coast of Somalia are dead, officials say

The two US Navy SEALs who went missing off the coast of Somalia on January 11 are dead, US Central Command said after searching for them for 10 days.

“We regret to announce that after a 10-day exhaustive search, our two missing U.S. Navy SEALs have not been located and their status has been changed to deceased,” Central Command said in a statement Sunday. “Out of respect for the families, no further information will be released at this time.”

CENTCOM added that teams from the US, Japan and Spain searched more than 21,000 square miles to try to locate the two missing SEALs. The two sailors were boarding a vessel when one fell into the water due to eight-foot swells, and the second jumped in after them according to protocol, CNN previously reported.

Central Command has not released information about what the sailors were doing when they went missing other than to say they were “forward-deployed” to the US Navy’s 5th Fleet area of operations and were “supporting a wide variety of missions.” It’s unclear what vessel the sailors were attempting to board.

“We mourn the loss of our two Naval Special Warfare warriors, and we will forever honor their sacrifice and example. Our prayers are with the SEALs’ families, friends, the U.S. Navy, and the entire Special Operations community during this time,” said Gen. Michael Erik Kurilla, US CENTCOM commander.

The US maintains a small military presence in Somalia that focuses on the threat of the al-Shabaab militant group, an extremist Islamist organization that has carried out attacks against the Somali government. The US recognizes al-Shabaab as a terrorist organization.

In addition to training Somali forces, the US has also coordinated with the Somali government to carry out strikes against al-Shabaab.

According to US Africa Command, “Al-Shabaab is the largest and most kinetically active al-Qaeda network in the world and has proved both its will and capability to attack U.S. forces and threaten U.S. security interests.”

CNN’s Oren Liebermann, Haley Britzky, Natasha Bertrand, Katie Bo Lillis and Jim Sciutto contributed to this report.

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