India fishermen deny US ship warned them in UAE shooting

Muthu Muniraj recovers in hospital in Dubai Muthu Muniraj was shot in the legs when the USNS Rappahannock opened fire

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Indian fishermen injured when their boat was shot at by a US Navy ship off the coast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) say they received no warnings before they came under fire.

One fisherman was killed and three others injured when the USNS Rappahannock raked the small boat with machinegun fire near Dubai on Monday.

The US Navy says the boat approached at speed and ignored repeated warnings.

Indian and US officials have launched investigations into the incident.

The shooting comes as the US expands its military presence in the Gulf, ramping up pressure on Iran over its nuclear programme.

'Very sudden'

Fisherman Muthu Muniraj, 28, speaking to Reuters news agency from hospital in Dubai, said they had not received any warnings from the US refuelling ship.

"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," he said.

Mr Muniraj was shot in the legs.

"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."

The crew of the boat - six Indians and two Emiratis - said they had been returning from trawling in waters off Jebel Ali.

"We were fishing and then on the way back they started shooting at us, so many shots, like a storm," said Muthu Kannan, 35.

He suffered gunshot wounds to the abdomen and leg.

"This is not the first time for us to go out in the boat and we all know what a warning is," said Pandu Sanadhan, 26.

USNS Rappahannock (file image) A security team on the Rappahannock opened fire after the boat failed to heed warnings, the US says

"All I can remember is a lot of shooting."

The identity of the fisherman who was killed has not yet been released.

The dead man and his wounded colleagues all came from the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

The US embassy in Delhi issued a statement on Tuesday "to convey its condolences" to the families of the crew.

US defence officials said on Monday that after "the vessel disregarded non-lethal warnings and rapidly approached the US ship", a security team on the Rappahannock fired rounds from a .50-calibre machine gun.

There were concerns of a repeat of the suicide attack 12 years ago on the destroyer USS Cole in which a small boat was used, they added.

Indian Foreign Minister SM Krishna described Monday's death as "unfortunate" and said the matter had been taken up with the United States.

Monday's incident follows the killing of two Indian fishermen in February off India's southern coast by Italian marines guarding an oil tanker. The marines said they mistook the fishermen for pirates.

Two Italian marines have been charged with murder and are on trial in India and the incident has caused a diplomatic row between the two countries.

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