India on Tuesday asked the United Arab Emirates to conduct a “full investigation” into the killing of an Indian fishermen and injuring of three others from a hail of bullets from a US navy ship off the coast of UAE — which has echoes of the killing of two Indian fishermen by Italian marines currently passing through the judicial grindstone.
USNS Rappahannock of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, fired on a 30-foot fishing boat, which it claimed was approaching it at high speed and ignored repeated non-lethal warning. The incident occurred within the UAE’s territorial waters near the port of Jebel Ali, around 3 pm local time on Monday.
While Sekar died from the shots, three other Indian fishermen, Muthu Kannan (35) , Panduganathan (25) and Muniyaraj (30) were being treated at Dubai’s Rashid hospital. “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,” Muniyaraj told Reuters. “We know warning signs and sounds and there were none; it was very sudden. I don’t understand what happened.” According to the AP, Dubai police chief Lt Gen Dahi Khalfan Tamim said an initial investigation suggests “the boat was in its right course and did not pose any danger.” He said the shooting appeared to be a mistake.
On Tuesday, US ambassador Nancy Powell called up the Indian foreign secretary to convey her “regret” and assured that the US would conduct a “full investigation”. External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said that India had taken up the matter with both the UAE and the US.
According to Sources, efforts are being made to bring back the body of the killed fishermen, but since an autopsy has to be done – the formal procedures may take some more time.
Indian diplomats pointed out that while Monday’s firing seemed to have a superficial similarity with the Enrica Lexie case, there were at least two significant differences. One, the vessel from which the shots were fired was a military ship, which was on sovereign duty, unlike the merchant ship on which the Italian marines were posted. Two, the US navy have acknowledged that the shots were fired by their personnel, unlike the Italians who were in denial mode.