4 charged with transporting Iranian-made weapons face detention hearings in US court

RICHMOND, Va. — Four crew members from an unflagged ship that U.S. officials say was carrying Iranian-made missile components will appear Tuesday in a federal courtroom in Virginia, where prosecutors will argue that they should be held without bond pending trial.

On the night of January 11, U.S. Navy Central Command troops, including Navy SEALs, along with members of the U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team, boarded the ship in the Arabian Sea, off the coast of Somalia. Two Navy SEALs drowned during the operation.

U.S. officials said Navy Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Christopher J. Chambers slipped into the gap created by high waves between the ship and the SEALs’ battlecraft. When Chambers fell, Nathan Gage Ingram, Navy Special Warfare Operator 2nd Class, jumped in to save him, according to U.S. officials briefed on what happened. Attempts to find and rescue them were unsuccessful.

During a search of the ship, U.S. forces found and seized advanced Iranian-made conventional weapons, including critical components for intermediate-range ballistic missiles and anti-ship cruise missiles, a nuclear warhead, and propulsion and guidance components, an FBI agent wrote in a report. declaration. The agent said the items found matched weapons used by the Houthi rebels in recent attacks on merchant ships and US military vessels in the region.

All four men had Pakistani identity cards with them.

Muhammad Pahlawan is accused of attempting to smuggle advanced missile components, including a nuclear warhead that he is accused of knowing would be used by the Houthi rebels against commercial and naval vessels in the Red Sea and surrounding waters. He is also accused of providing false information to U.S. Coast Guard officers while boarding the ship.

Pahlawan’s co-defendants – Mohammad Mazhar, Ghufran Ullah and Izhar Muhammad – were also charged with providing false information.

The men’s lawyers declined to comment.

Another 10 crew members are being held under the federal Material Witness Act. It allows courts to issue arrest warrants against a person if his testimony is “material to a criminal proceeding” and if it becomes “impossible to secure the person’s presence by subpoena.”

The FBI affidavit states that crew members had contacted a member of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guards several times by satellite phone.