NEW DELHI: "I am making this video because this could be the last video I make..." a young woman says into the camera, giving a harrowing account of what appears to be her life as a member of Dubai's royal family.
The woman, said to be 33-year-old Sheikha Latifa, a princess, has gone missing off the Goa coast.
Just days after India successfully brought back terrorist Dawood Ibrahim's aide Farooq Takla from Dubai, officials face a potentially explosive situation with its ruling family as Sheikha Latifa is believed to be the daughter of Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Saeed Al Maktoum.
Sheikha Latifa had last sent frantic WhatsApp messages on Sunday, March 4, around 4.30 pm, alleging that she and her American friend Herve Jaubert were "surrounded by men" who were firing at them. She was believed to be messaging from a US-registered boat that was last reported to be 50 miles from the Indian coastline.
UK-based agency "Detained in Dubai" has sent a missing report to agencies in the US, UK and India, but they say that they have not heard anything from India.
When contacted the Coast Guard of India, Deputy Commandant Avinandan Mitra said: "We have no such information or operation."
The story began on February 26, when Latifa contacted Detained in Dubai, a legal firm working for those with problems in the UAE. In an email to the company, she claimed she had been tortured and wanted help. Radha Stirling, who works with Detained in Dubai, said that the group was initially cautious and tried to verify her identity. "The email ID was confirmed by her friend and mutual contacts including a solicitor in Britain,'' she said.
Latifa said she had escaped from Dubai, where she had been tortured and imprisoned for supporting a sibling who had also run away.
Herve Jaubert, a US-based French author who helped in the escape, told Detained in Dubai that they planned to fly to the US on March 5 from India but were unsure of how Indian authorities would welcome them. The company believes the two escaped by boat. "Both were concerned that the Indian authorities would simply notify the UAE of their whereabouts and turn them in immediately,'' said Stirling. But the couple didn't have much choice as they were low on fuel.
The situation quickly went out of control on Sunday when Ms Stirling received messages from Latifa. "She said 'Radha, please help me, there are men outside' and she said she heard gunshots.'' As Stirling asked her to record it, the princess never texted her back.