JEBEL ALI, United Arab Emirates, July 17 (UPI) -- An Indian fisherman died after a U.S. Navy ship fired on a fishing boat off the United Arab Emirates following warnings that went unheeded, officials said.
Three others were injured in the Persian Gulf incident Monday.
The U.S. Defense Department quoted the Naval Forces Central Command as saying a security team aboard the refueling ship USNS Rappahannock fired on the boat after it "disregarded warnings and rapidly approached the ship." The incident occurred about 10 miles from the Dubai port of Jebel Ali in the United Arab Emirates.
The Rappahannock's crew repeatedly tried to warn the vessel's operators to turn away from its approach, naval officials said. The incident is under investigation, the Defense Department said.
The Wall Street Journal quoted UAE Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Tareq al-Haidan as saying one Indian fisherman was killed and three others were critically injured.
India's Hindu newspaper reported the dead and the injured fishermen were identified by the local fishermen's association as being from India's southern Tamil Nadu state.
"The safety of our vessels and our personnel is our utmost priority. Our ships have an inherent right of self-defense against potential threats," the Journal quoted Lt. Greg Raelson, a spokesman for the Navy's Fifth Fleet, as saying. "In this situation you had a small motor vessel that was deliberately approaching and did not respond to any warnings."
The Journal noted small boats carrying explosives pose risks for U.S. Navy ships, and Iranian fast boats frequently buzz warships patrolling the Persian Gulf.
Boston University Professor Michael Corgan told the Journal the Rappahannock's response seemed appropriate, recalling the 2000 attack on the USS Cole by a small boat laden with explosives.
The New York Times said the 677-foot Rappahannock fired on the vessel with a .50-caliber machine gun.
U.S. naval activity in the region has increased because of tensions with Iran and the need to ensure the free flow of oil from the Persian Gulf through the narrow Strait of Hormuz.
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