Rising tension in the Gulf has claimed a victim as a civilian boat came under fire from a US Navy ship after getting too close to an American tanker. One person was killed and three others wounded in the incident, say US officials.
The security watch of the US fleet tanker USNS Rappahannock spotted a small white-hulled boat, which continued to approach the ship despite a series of warnings.
“The US crew repeatedly attempted to warn the vessel's operators to turn away from their deliberate approach. When those efforts failed to deter the approaching vessel, the security team on the Rappahannock fired rounds from a .50-caliber machine gun,” said Lt. Greg Raelson, a spokesman for the Navy's Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet.
The incident, which took place near Dubai's Jebel Ali port on Monday, is still under investigation by the United Arab Emirates’ authorities. Few official details are currently available.
The deceased was an Indian national, as were the three others who were injured, reports the UAE’s state news agency WAM. The boat appeared to be a civilian vessel, of a type frequently used for fishing, about nine meters long and powered by three outboard motors. It bore no obvious military markings.
The US crew perceived the approaching boat as a threat, since the tanker was navigating an area close to Iranian territorial waters. In the past Iranian patrol boats have brushed past US Navy ships, much to the anger of Washington, which viewed the acts as “provocative.”
India has demanded that UAE authorities investigate the incident.
“The Indian ambassador in Abu-Dhabi has requested detailed specifics regarding the tragic incident from the authorities,” the embassy’s spokesperson said on Tuesday.
Tehran has also recently renewed its threats to block the Strait of Hormuz, through which one fifth of the world’s oil passes from the Persian Gulf to the Indian Ocean. Iran has stated that blocking the strait would come as retaliation for the tighter international sanctions over Iran's controversial nuclear program. The US has pledged to keep the strategic oil lane open and has recently boosted its naval presence in the Gulf, dispatching additional minesweepers, another aircraft carrier and other warships to the area.