Edited by Shamik Ghosh with (Reuters inputs) | Updated: July 17, 2012 18:47 IST
The US says it regrets the killing but also claimed that the fishing boat had ignored warnings to keep a safe distance from the the USNS Rappahannock, a refuelling ship. "Non-lethal measures were taken while attempting to signal the vessel," said, Lt. Greg Raelson, a spokesperson for the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, 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," he said
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 today 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 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 said in hospital, his legs punctured by the rounds of the U.S. craft's .50-caliber gun. Other members of the boat's 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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