Two US Navy SEALs vanished off the coast of Somalia while conducting a nighttime boarding mission on 11 January.
A search and rescue mission is currently underway in the Gulf of Aden, where the missing SEALs were operating.
Two US who spoke on the condition of anonymity officials told the Associated Press that the SEALs were on an interdiction mission, climbing up a vessel when one got knocked off by high waves. Under protocol, the second SEAL jumped in after the first.
The US Navy has conducted regular interdiction missions, where they have intercepted weapons on ships that were bound for Houthi-controlled Yemen.
The sailors, whose identities have not been released, were forward-deployed to the US 5th Fleet area of operations supporting a wide variety of missions.
The mission was not related to Operation Prosperity Guardian, the ongoing US and international mission to provide protection to commercial vessels in the Red Sea, or the retaliatory strikes that the US and the UK have conducted in Yemen.
It was also not related to the seizure of the oil tanker St Nikolas by Iran, a third US official said.
“Search and rescue operations are currently ongoing to locate the two sailors,” the US Central Command said in a statement. “For operational security purposes, we will not release additional information until the personnel recovery operation is complete.
Besides the defence of ships from launched drones and missiles shot from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, the US military has also come to the aid of commercial ships that have been the targets of piracy.
In a statement Saturday, US Central Command said it would not release additional information on the Thursday night incident until the personnel recovery mission is complete.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.