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… U.S. and the UAE. “Once these reports are received, we will decide on further steps,” said sources in the government.
A U.S. Navy report cited the failure of the boat to alter its course despite the firing of warning shots as one of the grounds for exonerating its personnel. But this claim was contested by one of the injured, Pandu Sanadhan. He denied that the American warship fired warning shots. “This is not the first time for us to go out in the boat and we all know what a warning is,” the 26-year-old said.
From his hospital bed at Dubai’s Jebel Ali port, Muthu Muniraj — injured in the legs in the machinegun fire — told Reuters the fishing boat crew “had [received] no warning at all from the ship.”
The U.S. Navy report concluded that its sailors were innocent because USNS Rappahannock had abided by the appropriate rules of engagement while firing at the small boat approaching the ship at high speed. The “use of force was appropriate” as the smaller 15-metre boat was deemed a threat, it said.
But Mr. Muniraj said his boat was “speeding up [only] to try and go around them [the U.S. ship] and then suddenly we got fired at.”
The U.S. Navy’s probe seemed to fully endorse its controversial initial response that the naval vessel had fired upon a small motor vessel “after it disregarded warnings and rapidly approached the U.S. ship.”
“In accordance with Navy force protection procedures, sailors on USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204) used a series of non-lethal, pre-planned responses to warn the vessel before resorting to lethal force.” The U.S. crew had “repeatedly attempted to warn the vessel’s operators to turn away from their deliberate approach before firing .50-calibre machine gun rounds.”
In India, the tragedy invoked perceptions of American high-handedness and led to demands for an apology.
The Pentagon expressed “regret” over the incident, and the western media added context to the use of force by citing the USS Cole incident of 2000, in which American crew members failed to take timely action to stop an explosives-laden boat from smashing into the warship, killing 17 personnel on board.