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Four Foreign Nationals Arrested for Transporting Suspected Iranian-Made Weapons, Two Navy SEALs Killed in Operation

Four foreign nationals have been apprehended and charged with the transportation of suspected Iranian-made weapons, following the interception of a vessel by U.S. naval forces in the Arabian Sea last month. Tragically, two Navy SEALs lost their lives during the operation. The criminal complaint, unsealed on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Richmond, alleges that the four defendants, all carrying Pakistani identification cards, were transporting missile components believed to be of Iranian origin. These components are commonly used by Houthi rebel forces in recent attacks.

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco expressed concern over the flow of missiles and advanced weaponry from Iran to Houthi rebel forces in Yemen, emphasizing the threat posed to American interests and regional partners. The operation, which prevented the smuggling of Iranian-made weapons that could have targeted American forces and disrupted vital navigation and commerce routes, resulted in the tragic deaths of Navy Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Christopher J. Chambers and Navy Special Warfare Operator 2nd Class Nathan Gage Ingram.

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland pledged that the Justice Department would utilize all legal means to hold accountable those involved in facilitating the flow of weapons from Iran to Houthi rebel forces, Hamas, and other groups that pose a security risk to the United States and its allies.

Muhammad Pahlawan, one of the defendants, faces charges of attempting to smuggle advanced missile components, including a warhead that he allegedly knew would be used by the Houthi rebels against commercial and naval vessels in the Red Sea and surrounding waters. Pahlawan is also accused of providing false information to U.S. Coast Guard officers during the boarding of the vessel. His co-defendants, Mohammad Mazhar, Ghufran Ullah, and Izhar Muhammad, have also been charged with providing false information.

During the operation, Navy forces boarded an unflagged vessel, described as a dhow, and discovered 14 individuals on board on the night of January 11. The vessel was located in the Arabian Sea off the Somali coast. Upon searching the dhow, Navy forces uncovered Iranian-made weapons, including components for medium-range ballistic missiles and anti-ship cruise missiles. As the dhow was deemed unseaworthy, all 14 sailors were transferred to the USS Lewis B. Puller and subsequently brought back to Virginia.

The FBI affidavit states that Navy forces were authorized to board the vessel under the premise of conducting a flag verification to determine its country of registration. Since the dhow was found to be flying without a flag, it was considered a “vessel without nationality” subject to U.S. law. The sailors on board admitted to departing from Iran, although one initially claimed they had departed from Pakistan. The affidavit further reveals that the crew members had been in contact multiple times via satellite phone with a member of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard.

Muhammad Pahlawan appeared in U.S. District Court for an initial appearance on Thursday and is scheduled for a detention hearing on Tuesday. His attorney, Assistant Supervisory Federal Public Defender Amy Austin, declined to comment on the case, stating that they are still in the early stages and only have information from the complaint.

Author: CrimeDoor


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