US ship shot at boat without warning
Delhi ascertaining facts of incident
The Indian fishermen aboard a boat targeted by the US Navy off Dubai coast killing one of them on Monday have claimed that they received no warning before being fired upon.
“According to the survivors, there were no warnings given to them,” said Indian Ambassador to the UAE M K Lokesh. “There are many versions of the incident. We have to wait for the details to emerge,” the ambassador said.
The UAE embassy had sent reports to New Delhi quoting the fishermen’s testimony that contradicted Washington’s claim that security personnel aboard the US Navy ship USNS Rappahannock fired on the fishing vessel near the port of Jebel Ali in Dubai only after the latter disregarded non-lethal warnings.
Sekar from Tamil Nadu was killed and three were injured. Even as US promised to conduct a “full investigation” into the firing, New Delhi said it would keep in touch with both American and UAE authorities to ascertain full facts of the incident.
ABC News quoting an unnamed UAE official said the fishing boat had four Indians and two Emirate nationals on board.
Sekar had gone to Dubai around 10 months ago to earn money to help clear family debts incurred for his sister’s wedding, one of his neighbours in his native village Periyapattinam in Ramanathapuram told Deccan Herald.
Harassment from the Sri Lankan Navy had persuaded the fishermen to prefer the Arabian Sea, instead Palk Straits waters, a villager said.
US envoy to India Nancy Powell called up Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai early on Tuesday to convey Washington’s regret for the loss of Indian lives in the incident and assured that the US
government would conduct “full investigation”.
However, the American Embassy in New Delhi also issued a statement claiming that the security personnel onboard the Rappahannock fired on the “small motor vessel” after the latter “disregarded non-lethal warnings and rapidly approached the US ship”.
Dozens of police and other Emirati officials crowded around the white-hulled motorized boat at Dubai. The boat appeared to be a civilian vessel about 30 feet (9 meters) long and powered by three outboard motors. Similar boats are used for fishing in the region.
Rescue workers were seen carrying one person in a body bag off the boat and placing it in an ambulance as fishermen looked on. External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said New Delhi had been in constant touch with Indian embassies in Abu Dhabi and Washington in the wake of the ‘unfortunate’ incident.
“I learned from Ambassador (Indian envoy to UAE M K Lokesh) that the Government of United Arab Emirates had filed a case in the incident and they were proceeding according to the laws of that country,” said Krishna, adding that New Delhi hoped that “necessary action” will be initiated by the US.
Official spokesperson and Joint Secretary (External Affairs) Syed Akbaruddin said the Indian embassy in Washington had been in touch with the US government since late at night on Monday.
Sources in New Delhi said that it might take sometime to bring back the mortal remains of the deceased fisherman to India due to legal procedures in the UAE.
The three injured fishermen were all out of danger, sources added. In Rameswaram, Karaiyur Fishermen Association President Malairajan said all four Indian fishermen hailed from Ramanathapuram and were working for Dubai fishing companies on daily wage basis.
Jaya demands probe
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha has expressed deep anguish at the shooting and demanded a detailed probe into the incident, reports DHNS from Chennai.
Jayalalitha has urged the Centre to take up the matter with the governments of US and the UAE to institute a detailed enquiry into the incident. Jayalalitha also requested Dr Singh to ensure “due compensation is paid to the families of the deceased and injured fishermen.” The concerned Indian Embassy officials should be directed to “render all necessary medical and other assistance” to the injured fishermen admitted to a hospital in Dubai for treatment, she further urged. “They are all innocent fishermen” who had gone to work in Dubai only for their livelihood, she stressed.