Two U.S. Navy SEALs are missing off the coast of Somalia after having fallen into the water during a nighttime boarding mission on Thursday, according to two U.S. officials, ABC News reported.
The officials said that the SEALs had fallen into the water one after the other during the boarding of a vessel by boat in the Gulf of Aden.
It was unclear what had prompted them to board the vessel.
For SEALs, it is standard protocol to jump into the water to rescue a fellow SEAL when they fall overboard, said a U.S. official.
Search operations for the missing SEALs are continuing, said a U.S. defense official.
The Gulf of Aden has become a hotspot of U.S. Naval activity as the Houthi militants in Yemen have carried out more than two dozen attacks against commercial ships in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden since mid-November.
U.S. Navy ships deployed to those bodies of water have responded to distress calls from some of those commercial ships or have shot down dozens of Houthi drones and missiles.
On Thursday and Friday, the U.S. carried out airstrikes against nearly 30 locations associated with the Houthi attacks.
"On the evening of January 11, two U.S. Navy Sailors were reported missing at sea while conducting operations off the coast of Somalia," said a statement from U.S. Central Command issued Friday that disclosed that the sailors had gone missing.
"Search and rescue operations are currently ongoing to locate the two sailors," said the statement. "For operational security purposes, we will not release additional information until the personnel recovery operation is complete."
The statement did not disclose what type of operation the sailors were conducting at the time other than to say that they were "were forward-deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet (C5F) area of operations supporting a wide variety of missions."
"Out of respect for the families affected, we will not release further information on the missing personnel at this time," it added.
A former U.S. official described nighttime boarding operations as some of the most complex and dangerous operations that Navy sailors can carry out and that ocean sea states and environmental considerations are constantly being monitored.