India has called on the United Arab Emirates to investigate the fatal shooting of an Indian fisherman by a US navy ship in waters off Dubai, the Indian foreign ministry has confirmed.
“India’s ambassador in Abu Dhabi has requested UAE authorities to probe the circumstances of the tragic incident,” the foreign ministry’s spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said on Tuesday.
Al Jazeera’s Prerna Suri reporting from Delhi says: “The Indian authorities are pressing the UAE to charge those who are responsible, this is fast becoming a diplomatic problem for India, the UAE and the US.”
An Indian fisherman was killed and three people wounded as their boat was shot at off the coast of Dubai in the southern Gulf.
Lieutenant Greg Raelson, a spokesperson for the US navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet, said sailors aboard the USNS Rappahannock opened fire on the boat after it ignored warnings.
“US ships have an inherent right to self defence against potential threats… The safety of our vessels and our personnel is of the utmost priority,” he told Al Jazeera in an email response to a query.
However, Al Jazeera spoke with witnesses who had been aboard the boat, who said that the US vessel gave no warning.
After firing on the fishing boat, the US ship sailed away without stopping to help, they said. The fishermen had to call for help themselves. “They [US vessel] did not come to the aid of the people. The Indians on board called the police, and the US ship kept sailing,” one man told Al Jazeera.
“The firing has led to the death of one Indian national and serious injury of three Indian nationals,” Tarek al-Hedan, an aide to the foreign minister for political affairs, told the official WAM news agency on Monday.
An Indian official told reporters in Delhi: “Our Embassy in Washington DC has been in touch with the US Government since midnight yesterday. Our Embassy in Abu Dhabi is working with local authorities to carry out full investigation into the circumstances leading to this unfortunate and tragic incident”.
The US ambassador to India Nancy Powell also telephoned Ranjan Mathai, the Indian Foreign Secretary to convey her regret for the loss of life and assured that the US government would conduct a full investigation.
The shooting took place at around 2pm local time (10:00GMT) about 16km from the coast, the US navy said.
The Rappahannock – with a crew of 81 civilians and three military officers – was headed into the UAE port of Jebel Ali when the small motor boat came within 8km of it, the navy said.
Navy officials told Al Jazeera the crew first tried to halt the vessel via radio and on loudspeaker, as well as by flashing lights and firing warning shots. They then shot at the boat with a 50 calibre weapon.
But a witness told Al Jazeera that no warning shots were fired by the US Navy to warn the Vessel.