New Delhi/Thiruvananthapuram: India Thursday summoned the Italian envoy and protested
over the shooting of two Indian fishermen by security officials of
an Italian cargo vessel off the Kerala coast and asked Italy to
cooperate with the Kerala Police.
The incident triggered a diplomatic row, with Italy differing from
India's description of the events. Italy said the Italian navy
personnel on board Enrica Lexie first fired warning shots after
they were allegedly attacked in international waters by people on
an Indian fishing vessel.
But a government source told IANS: "There was no prior warning as
reported by the crew." The incident is being investigated by the
navy, Coast Guard and Kerala Police.
Two fishermen, one from Tamil Nadu and anothr from Kerala, were
suspected to be pirates and shot dead Wednesday evening about 14
nautical miles off Alappuzha in Kerala.
"A case will be registered against the Italian crew and the law
will take its own course," said a home ministry official.
According to the Mumbai-based Directorate-General of Shipping, the
Principal Officer, Mercantile Maritime Department, Kochi, has been
told to conduct a preliminary inquiry into the incident.
"It is very serious and unfortunate," said Defence Minister A.K.
India lodged a strong protest with Italy. M. Ganapathi, secretary
(west) in the external affairs ministry, met Italian ambassador
Giacomo Sanfelice di Montefort and told him that the ship's
captain has to cooperate with Indian officials.
The envoy promised the captain would do so.
After the meeting, the envoy said the facts of the case were yet
"We are working in very close cooperation with Indian authorities.
It is in any case a very sad incident. What I want to underline is
that the Italian ship moved voluntarily into the Kochi port," he
"The Italian Navy followed the international protocol as it was
approached by a vessel which did not stop when flash lights were
sent," he said.
Enrica Lexie is now berthed off the Kochi coast.
Kerala's police chief Jacob Punnoose told IANS: "In any country
when there is a death like this, a case will be registered and the
law of the land will be set in motion."
"A team of Kerala Police has gone to the ship. There are rules
also with regard to what information can be shared and what cannot
be with regard to this case."
He said an Italian official had reached Kochi and met police
The Italian embassy insisted the ship was attacked and the firing
was done in self-defence.
The embassy said the master of the ship was contacted by the
Indian Coast Guard and asked to direct it towards the Kochi
harbour. This was done.
Freddy, the boat owner, said there were 11 people on board.
"Except for the two who were shot dead, all the other nine were
fast asleep. I woke up hearing sounds similar to a gunshot. I saw
the two in a pool of blood. I screamed and shouted and all others
also woke up, but by then it was too late," said Freddy, who is
from Tamil Nadu.
The Kerala cabinet has decided to give Rs.500,000 as compensation
each to the next of kin of the two fishermen.