A US navy vessel fired on an approaching motor boat off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, killing one person and injuring others, reports said.
Lieutenant Greg Raelson, a spokesman for the navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet, said that a small boat was rapidly approaching the USNS Rappahannock on Monday.
Sailors aboard had issued a series of warnings before resorting to lethal force using a .50-caliber machine gun, he said.
The attack on the boat appeared to have been mistaken as a threat in Gulf waters not far from Iran’s maritime boundaries.
A US defence official told the Reuters news agency the boat departed after being fired upon, and it was unclear whether there were any deaths or injuries.
However, a US consular official in Dubai confirmed the incident, telling the Associated Press that one person had been killed and three others injured.
An Emirati rescue official at the scene confirmed the casualty toll. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the incident between the two allies.
Rescue workers were seen carrying one person in a body bag off the white-hulled boat and placing it in an ambulance as fishermen looked on, AP reported. Officials moved the boat from the harbour shortly afterward.
Dozens of police and other Emirati officials crowded around the boat, which sat docked after the incident in a small Dubai port used by fishermen and sailors.
The boat appeared to be a civilian vessel about 9 meters long and powered by three outboard motors.
Similar boats are used for fishing in the region, though Iran’s Revolutionary Guard also employs relatively small, fast-moving craft in the Gulf.
US military vessels routinely cross paths with Iranian ships in international waters in the Gulf without incident, but speed boats from the Revolutionary Guard have passed close to US ships in incidents that have raised alarm in Washington.
In early 2008, then President George Bush accused Iran of a “provocative act” after five small Iranian craft buzzed around the destroyer USS Hopper.
Tensions are elevated in the Gulf after Iran last week renewed threats to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz – the route for one-fifth of the world’s oil – in retaliation for tighter sanctions over Tehran’s nuclear programme.
The US recently boosted its naval presence in the Gulf with additional minesweepers and other warships.
The US navy’s 5th Fleet, based in Bahrain, said it was investigating the Monday shooting. The US Embassy in Abu Dhabi had no immediate comment, referring all questions to the navy.
AJE TOP NEWS | JULY 16, 2012