An Indian fisherman aboard a boat shot at by the US Navy off Dubai’s coast has told officials the crew received no warning before being fired upon, the Indian ambassador to the United Arab Emirates has said.
One Indian man was killed in the incident, while three of his countrymen were seriously wounded.
The account differs from that provided by the US Navy, which said it resorted to lethal force only after issuing a series of warnings.
The shooting happened on Monday afternoon when a small boat rapidly approached the refuelling ship USNS Rappahannock about 10 miles off Dubai’s Jebel Ali port, according to the navy.
Officials said the boat’s crew disregarded warnings from the US vessel, and only then did gunners fire on it with a .50-calibre machine gun.
The white-hulled boat appeared to be a civilian vessel about 30ft long and powered by three outboard motors. It had no obvious military markings. Similar boats are used for fishing in the region, though Iran’s Revolutionary Guard also employs relatively small, fast-moving craft in the Gulf.
Indian consular officials have met the wounded fishermen. Indian Ambassador MK Lokesh told reporters that one of the survivors reported that the men were returning from fishing when they encountered the American ship.
“He says there was no warning” before the shooting occurred,“ Mr Lokesh said, though he noted that authorities are still working to determine what happened.
“We are waiting for the investigation to be complete. We are waiting to see what happened.”
Dubai’s police chief, Lt Gen Dahi Khalfan Tamim, said an initial investigation suggests “the boat was in its right course and did not pose any danger,” according to comments published by Abu Dhabi-based daily The National.
He told the government-backed newspaper that the shooting appeared to be a mistake.
Mr Lokesh said the casualties are all from the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Four other men – two Indians and two Emiratis – were unhurt because they were in the boat’s cabin, he said.
The Indian ambassador also said the three injured men were recovering in a Dubai hospital.
“They’re out of danger,” he said.
The US ambassador to India, Nancy Powell, has expressed regret for the loss of life and assured
Indian officials that the US government will conduct a full investigation.
India has separately asked the United Arab Emirates to investigate the incident, Indian External Affairs Minister SM Krishna said.
Tariq Ahmed al-Haidan, political affairs assistant to the UAE Foreign Minister, has said relevant UAE authorities are working to determine what happened.