x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 September 2017

US navy opens fire on fishing boat off UAE coast

Map: Indian fisherman dies and three other men critically injured. The Indian ambassador says the embassy is waiting for UAE authorities to investigate.

Emirati police and other officials inspect a fishing boat that was shot at by the crew of a United States navy vessel. One fisherman was killed and three other men critically injured.
Emirati police and other officials inspect a fishing boat that was shot at by the crew of a United States navy vessel. One fisherman was killed and three other men critically injured.

A fisherman was killed and three other men critically injured yesterday after a United States navy oil-supply vessel opened fire on a fishing boat.

The four Indian victims were among eight people on the fishing boat, with two Emiratis and two other Indians. The incident happened at 2.50pm, 16 kilometres off the coast of Jebel Ali.

“The injured men are in intensive care,” a Coastguard official said last night.

Lt Greg Raelson, a spokesman for the US navy’s Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, said the crew of the USNS Rappahannock used lethal force after the fishermen disregarded a series of warnings and rapidly approached the US ship. When those efforts failed to deter the fishing boat, the security team on the ship opened fire with a .50-calibre machinegun, he said.

The incident is under investigation by the US navy. The American vessel provides fuel and supplies to US navy and coalition ships.

“The UAE-concerned authorities are investigating the incident,” Dr Tariq Ahmed Al Hidan, political affairs assistant to the Foreign Minister, told the state news agency Wam.

Dubai’s police chief, Lt Gen Dahi Khalfan Tamim, said the captain of the boat did not receive any warning.

“The primary investigation confirms that the boat was in its right course and did not pose any danger. The shooting was clearly a mistake,” he said.

The Indian ambassador to the UAE, MK Lokesh, said the embassy was waiting for UAE authorities to investigate the incident.

“We have to still ascertain the exact circumstances in which the boat was shot,” Mr Lokesh said. "We are waiting for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' response. I have asked the consulate to assist the injured and I will also try to visit them."

The ambassador said the Indian missions would contact all four men's relatives in India to keep them informed.

A local fisherman said last night the boat had been returning with its daily catch and claimed it was shot without any warning.

“They were coming back to the marina area and the two Emiratis were inside the cabin driving the boat. The other men were sitting outside,” he said.

UPDATE: Three Indian fishermen recover in hospital after US Navy shooting

mismail@thenational.ae pkannan@thenational.ae

* With additonal reporting by Wafa Issa.

View USNS Rappahanock incident, July 16, 2012 in a larger map