Survivors of gunfire from a U.S. Navy vessel that killed one and wounded three others on a fishing boat off the coast of the United Arab Emirates have disputed claims that the crew had ignored warnings to stay away from the American ship, Reuters reported.
"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," one of the wounded, Muthu Muniraj told Reuters, speaking from a hospital after both legs had been punctured by rounds from the Navy's .50 caliber gun in Monday's shooting. "We know warning signs and sounds and there were none; it was very sudden," said Muniraj, one of four Indian nationals struck by the gunfire. "My friend was killed; he's gone. I don't understand what happened." Two United Arab Emirates nationals on board with the Indians when the shooting occurred were uninjured. An Emirati official said the incident occurred in Jabel Ali, a frequent docking point for American vessels about 30 miles southwest of Dubai, Outlook India.com reported. A Navy spokesman said the fishing boat was about 10 miles from the port and approaching the USNS Rappahannock (pictured, number 204) a replenishment oiler used to refuel other ships, when the ship's crew issued warnings to stay away.
"The U.S. crew repeatedly attempted to warn the vessel's operators to turn away from their deliberate approach, said Lieutenant Greg Raelson, a spokesman with the Navy's Bahrain-based 5th fleet. "When those efforts failed to deter the approaching vessel, the security team on the Rappahannock fired rounds from a .50-caliber machine gun." Navy ships, Raelson said, "have an inherent right to self-defense against lethal threats."
U. S. crews have had increased apprehension of approaching vessels since al Qaeda suicide bombers in 2000 rammed a boat loaded with explosives into the side of the USS Cole in the port of Aden in Yemen, killing 17 U.S. sailors. ABC News quoted an unnamed Navy official who said Iranian boats sometimes harass U.S. ships in the region, but hastened to add that the boat in Monday's incident was not Iranian. "I can't emphasize enough that this has nothing to do with Iran," the official said.
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