Edited by Amit Chaturvedi | Updated: July 18, 2012 11:39 IST
The United States has rejected the eyewitness account, and has said it stands by its Navy's statement on the incident. Pentagon spokesperson George Little said warnings were given to the fishermen to back off, but they did not pay heed. "We certainly regret the loss of life. There were in fact warning measures based on what we know now. This is under investigation and we will know full facts once the investigation is complete," said Mr Little.
India has asked the UAE to register a formal case against the US Navy, which has also said it is conducting its own investigation into the chain of events. Foreign Minister SM Krishna said yesterday that the government of Dubai has filed a case. The US has assured India of a complete account of what transpired at sea.
The firing has highlighted the potential for a rapid escalation of tensions in Gulf waters, where US forces are expanding their presence as Washington ramps up pressure on Iran over its nuclear programme.
Iran said the incident threatens to further destabilise a region already shaken by the international dispute over Tehran's nuclear programme. "We have announced time and again that the presence of foreign forces can be a threat to regional security," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said during a news conference broadcast on state television.
The fisherman who was killed, 29-year-old Sekar from Dubai, was from a village named Periyapattinam in Tamil Nadu. He travelled to Dubai 10 months ago in the hope that his wages would help his family settle debts incurred for his sister's wedding. He last phoned his parents a month ago.
"We thought it was a cargo ship, but it turned out to be a navy ship. We were surrounded by them and then they started shooting randomly at us. The ship's crew must have fired at least 200-300 shots and Sekar died in the firing," said Murugan, an eyewitness. Other fishermen were injured by the rounds of the US craft's .50-caliber gun. The crew, which consisted of six Indians and two Emiratis, said their boat had come under fire as it returned from trawling in waters off Jebel.
Guest workers from India and other South Asian countries have flocked to the Gulf for decades in search of better paying jobs. Many are employed as low-skill workers in industries such as fishing and construction.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa has asked the Prime Minister to take an aggressive stand. "I request you to kindly take up this matter with the Governments of the United States and Dubai, to cause a detailed inquiry into the incident. I also request you to ensure that due compensation is paid to the families of the deceased and injured fishermen," she said in her letter to the PM.
The US Navy said in February that Iran had built up its naval forces in the Gulf and prepared boats that could be used in suicide attacks.
Tehran repeatedly threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz through which 40 percent of the world's sea-borne oil exports are carried if threatened over its nuclear plans. Iran has also denied that it is seeking nuclear bombs.
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