New Delhi: Even as the Pentagon defended the US Navy ship that killed one Indian fishermen and injured three others, saying that they ignored warnings, Indian fishermen denied any such warnings by the US navy ship and said they were shot at without any provocation.
The fishermen, hospitalised with gunshot wounds after the incident near Dubai's Jebel Ali port, said on Tuesday that they received no warning before the US craft opened fire, and that their craft had attempted to avoid any contact with it.
"We had no warning at all from the ship, we were speeding up to try and go around them and then suddenly we got fired at," 28-year-old Muthu Muniraj told Reuters from hospital, his legs punctured by the rounds of the US craft's .50-caliber gun.
"We know warning signs and sounds and there were none; it was very sudden. My friend was killed, he's gone. I don't understand what happened."
A Fifth Fleet spokesman, Lt Greg Raelson, asked whether the identification of the craft as a fishing boat made the threat cited by the Navy less likely, said an internal inquiry into the incident had not finished.
"Non-lethal measures were taken while attempting to signal the vessel," he said, adding that the fishing craft did not respond. "That was when the security team fired rounds from the .50-caliber ... Our ships have an inherent right to self-defence against lethal threats."
On Monday the US Navy vessel, USNS Rappahannock, opened machinegun fire on a fishing vessel 48 km off the Jebel Ali port, south west of Dubai.
Six of the eight crew members were Indians. one was killed and three others were injured. All of them are from Ramnathpuram district in Tamil Nadu.
The diplomatic storm soon hit Delhi and Washington. External Affairs Minister SM Krishna said, "Necessary action will be taken. I have been told by my ambassador in UAE that a case has been filed against the incident by the concerned authorities and the case will proceed as per the law of that country."
US Ambassador Nancy Powell spoke to Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai conveying her deepest regrets. An embassy statement said, "The Embassy of the US would like to convey its condolences to the families of the crew of a small motor vessel, which came under fire from the USNS Rappahannock on July 16."
Sources say that a postmortem of the one who lost his life in the firing will be conducted soon even as the Indian govt is trying its best for the eary repatriation of the body.
(With additional information from Reuters)
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