Conflicting accounts of UAE fishing boat attack
Indian fishermen who survived a hail of gunfire from a US navy boat off the coast of the United Arab Emirates have disputed American claims that they ignoring warnings to steer clear.
One Indian was killed and three others injured on Monday when the USNS Rappahannock, a refuelling ship, fired on the fishing vessel.
The US Navy’s Fifth Fleet said the fishing boat had approached at high speed and ignored repeated warnings.
The incident highlighted the potential for a rapid escalation of tensions in Gulf waters, where US forces are expanding their presence to put pressure on Iran over its nuclear programme.
The fishermen, in hospital with gunshot wounds after the incident near Dubai’s Jebel Ali port, said that they received no warning before the US craft opened fire.
“We had no warning at all from the ship, we were speeding up to try to go around them and then suddenly we got fired at,” Muthu Muniraj, 28, said from hospital, his legs punctured by the rounds of the US vessel’s .50-calibre gun. “We know warning signs and sounds and there were none. My friend was killed, he’s gone.”
A fleet spokesman said an inquiry was continuing.
“Non-lethal measures were taken while attempting to signal the vessel,” he said, adding that the fishing craft did not respond. “Our ships have an inherent right to self-defence against lethal threats.”
The US has been wary of attacks on its ships since two al-Qaeda suicide bombers rammed an boat into the USS Cole in 2000, killing 17 US sailors.
Muthu Kannan, 26, another wounded member of the fishing boat’s crew – made up of six Indians and two Emiratis – said: “We were fishing and on the way back they started shooting at us, so many shots, like a storm.”
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