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U.S. identifies Navy SEALs lost during maritime raid on ship with Iranian weapons

Two Navy SEALs who went missing at sea on Jan. 11 while on an interdiction mission are considered dead, the U.S. military said Sunday. 

The SEALs were reported missing during a mission near the coast of Somalia to board a ship carrying Iranian weapons, U.S. Central Command said in a statement. They were identified Monday as Navy Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Christopher J. Chambers and Navy Special Warfare Operator 2nd Class Nathan Gage Ingram.

"They were exceptional warriors,  cherished teammates, and dear friends to many within the Naval Special Warfare community," said Capt. Blake L. Chaney, commander of Naval Special Warfare Group 1.

Photos of U.S. Navy SEALS Nathan Gage Ingram and Christopher Chambers
Navy Special Warfare Operator 2nd Class Nathan Gage Ingram (left) and Navy Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Christopher J. Chambers (right). U.S. Navy

Ships and aircraft from the U.S., Japan and Spain searched more than 21,000 square miles, CENTCOM said, adding that the search for the missing SEALs has now been changed to a recovery effort. 

"Recovery efforts are still continuing as we grieve this profound loss for our country," President Biden said in a statement Monday. "These SEALs represented the very best of our country, pledging their lives to protect their fellow Americans. Our hearts go out to the family members, loved ones, friends, and shipmates who are grieving for these two brave Americans. Our entire country stands with you. We will never fail to honor their service, their legacy, and their sacrifice."

Defense officials earlier told CBS News that the missing sailors went overboard while attempting to board the Iranian vessel. The SEALs were climbing up a vessel when one got knocked off by high waves in the Arabian Sea, the Associated Press reported. Under their protocol, when one SEAL is overtaken, the next jumps in after them.

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

Chambers and Ingram enlisted in the Navy in 2012 and 2019, respectively, officials said. Both men served with West Coast-based SEAL units. Chambers' awards and decorations include the Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal with Combat "C," three Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medals, Army Achievement Medal, Combat Action Ribbon and other personal and unit awards. Ingram's awards and decorations include various personal and unit awards.

"Chris and Gage selflessly served their country with unwavering professionalism and exceptional capabilities," Chaney said. "This loss is devastating for NSW, our families, the special operations community, and across the nation."

The U.S. military seized "advanced lethal aid" being sent to supply Houthi rebels in Yemen during the Jan. 11 raid, officials said last week. The initial analysis of the weapons found they were the types being used by the Houthis to attack commercial vessels in the Red Sea.

An image shared by the U.S. military's Central Command on social media shows items seized from an Iranian boat near the coast of Somalia on Jan. 11, 2024. U.S. Military handout

The U.S. Navy sank the ship after it was deemed unsafe, Central Command said. The ship's 14 crew were detained.

"This was not related to the strikes in Yemen," National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said about the incident on "Face the Nation" last week. "This was normal interdiction operations that we've been conducting for some time to try to disrupt that flow of weapons supplies to Yemen."

The Houthis have vowed to keep attacking ships they deem connected to Israel or Israel's international allies. Houthi rebels, who control swaths of Yemen, justify the missile and drone launches as retaliation for the ongoing Israeli military operation in Gaza against the Palestinian militant group Hamas. 

The Biden administration last week declared Yemen's Houthi rebels to be a "specially designated global terrorist group."

Tucker Reals contributed reporting. 

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