An explosion that ripped apart a boat carrying more than 40 asylum seekers last week, killing five people, was the result of a threat gone tragically wrong, senior government sources say.
The ABC reports sources have confirmed that asylum seekers on board the vessel doused its deck with petrol in an attempt to force the navy to let the boat land in Australia.
They reportedly feared being turned back to Indonesia.
The boat exploded on Thursday near Ashmore Island, northwest of the Australian mainland.
That afternoon West Australian Premier Colin Barnett said he understood the refugees on the boat spread petrol and that ignited “causing the explosion”. He said it was unclear how the flames ignited.
But senior government sources now say the explosion was an accident, describing it as a threat gone tragically wrong.
Police investigation under way
A spokeswoman for Kevin Rudd said the prime minister wouldn\’t be commenting on the claims.
Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus\’s office did not immediately return calls on Sunday night.
Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the government wouldn\’t release any information until it knew it was absolutely accurate.
“I understand people are thirsty for information and they want it as soon as it\’s available, but we can\’t give you the conclusions of a police investigation until the police have done their work,” she told the Nine Network.
Ms Gillard also refused to comment on reports the navy is tracking another boat headed for Australian shores.
“We don\’t comment on operational matters, so I won\’t be commenting on that.”