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Four men charged in Virginia for an arms deal in Red Sea region

Team from USS John Puller trains on helicopter operations in the Gulf of Oman. Jun. 20, 2023. Department of Defense.
Team from USS John Puller trains on helicopter operations in the Gulf of Oman. Jun. 20, 2023. Department of Defense.

The Justice Department announced four foreign nationals have been charged in the Eastern District of Virginia for transporting an illegal warhead and providing false information to the U.S. Coast Guard. 

Muhammad Pahlawan, Mohammad Mazhar, Ghufran Ullah, and Izhar Muhammad, who were identified as  Pakistani, appeared before a Federal Judge in Richmond Thursday and the indictment was unsealed later that day.

The defendants face a maximum of 20 years in prison.

In January,  two Navy SEALs died while trying to board a vessel in the Arabian Sea, carrying what the U.S. says are Iranian arms components. Both men are believed to have drowned. 

“The complaint alleges that the defendants were transporting weapons consistent with those used by Houthi rebel forces and then lied to the U.S. Coast Guard during the boarding of the vessel,” said U.S. Attorney Jessica D. Aber for the Eastern District of Virginia. 

The four men have been charged with attempting to smuggle missile components from Iran to Houthi rebels in Yemen. The U.S. and its allies have been trying to protect international shipping in the area around the Red Sea from a barrage of missiles and drones, fired mainly from Yemen.

“The Justice Department extends our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of the two Navy SEALs who lost their lives on January 11th while conducting an operation in the Arabian Sea,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland. 

“The charges resulting from that interdiction make clear that the Justice Department will use every legal authority to hold accountable those who facilitate the flow of weapons from Iran to Houthi rebel forces.”

Steve joined WHRO in 2023 to cover military and veterans. Steve has extensive experience covering the military and working in public media, most recently at KPBS in San Diego, WYIN in Gary, Indiana and WBEZ in Chicago. In the early 2000s, he embedded with members of the Indiana National Guard in Kuwait and Iraq. Steve reports for NPR’s American Homefront Project, a national public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans. Steve is also on the board of Military Reporters & Editors.

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