An Indian fisherman, present on the boat which was shot at by the U.S. Navy off Dubai’s coast, has told officials that the crew received no warning before being fired upon, India’s ambassador to the United Arab Emirates said on Tuesday.
The account differs from that provided by the Navy, which said it resorted to lethal force on Monday only after issuing a series of warnings.
One Indian was killed in the incident, and three of his countrymen were seriously wounded. The shooting underscored how quickly naval encounters can escalate in the increasingly tense waters of the Gulf.
The shooting happened on July 16th afternoon, when a boat rapidly approached the refuelling ship USNS Rappahannock approximately 10 miles (16 kilometres) off Dubai’s Jebel Ali port, according to the Navy.
The Navy said the boat’s crew disregarded warnings from the U.S. vessel, and only then did gunners fire on it with a .50-caliber machine gun.
A description of the incident posted online by the U.S. military indicates that a security team on the Rappahannock began issuing warnings as the boat headed toward it from approximately 900 yards (820 metres) away. Gunners opened fire only when the boat closed in to approximately 100 yards (90 metres), according to the account.
The boat had no obvious military markings. Boats similar to this one 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 with the wounded. Indian Ambassador M. K. Lokesh told The Associated Press on Tuesday 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.”
Guest workers from India and South Asian countries have flocked to the Gulf for decades in search of well-paying jobs. Many are employed as low-skilled workers in industries such as fishing and construction.
Dubai’s police chief, Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim, said an initial investigation suggests “the boat was in its right course, and didn’t present any danger,” according to comments published by Abu Dhabi-based daily The National. He told the government-supported newspaper that the shooting appeared to be a mistake.
Mr. Lokesh said the casualties are all from the Indian State of Tamil Nadu. Four men — two Indians and two Emiratis — were unhurt because they were in the boat’s cabin, he said.
The three injured men are recovering in a Dubai hospital and are “out of danger,” the Indian ambassador added. It wasn’t immediately possible to reach the fishermen directly.