An Italian cargo ship fired at an Indian fishing boat that it mistook for a pirate vessel, killing two fishermen, India’s navy said Thursday.The incident reportedly occurred 40 miles off the Indian coast.
The ship identified as the Enrica Lexie fired at the fishermen in waters off India’s southern Kerala state on Wednesday, a navy statement said.
The Indian coast guard and navy vessels escorted the Italian ship to the nearby port city of Kochi and were questioning the captain and crew.
The owner of the fishing vessel, who goes by the single name Freddy, said Thursday the firing was unprovoked. The boat was fishing when the ship opened fire, killing the two fishermen instantly, he said.
More from here:
India on Thursday summoned the Italian envoy and voiced concern over the killing of two fishermen by security officials of the Italian cargo vessel and underlined that the captain of the ship should cooperate with local authorities.One report has the armed guards as being "Italian navy personnel."
M Ganapathi, secretary (west) in the external affairs ministry, met Italian ambassador Giacomo Sanfelice di Montefort and told him that the captain has to cooperate with Indian officials probing the incident.
The captain of Enrica Lexie, who has been ordered to anchor near a local port, told officials the fishermen were mistaken for pirates after they sailed close to the tanker in a motorised boat, navy spokesman Roy Francis said.
"The security wing fired at the fishermen and the captain has alerted the coast guard about the firing. We are making a detailed investigation," the naval spokesman said.
Freddie Louis, who owns the Indian fishing vessel, said gunmen on board the tanker fired at the boat "without provocation," killing the two unarmed men aged 50 and 21.
The boat with 11 men had sailed out to trawl for tuna fish on February 7.
"We were returning after the fishing and all of us were were sleeping except Valentine and Pinki," Louis told AFP, identifying the victims by their first names.
UPDATE: An interesting legal question arises about what law will apply to this shooting and that may turn on the location ship when the shooting occurred. Did this incident occur in Indian waters or on the "high seas?"
UPDATE2 (19 Feb 12): Italian guards now in Indian custody as reported here. India has has custody of the guards, the Italian government asserts that a trial, if any, should occur in Italy:
The Italian government maintains the case should be handled by its own judicial authorities “since the deeds happened in international waters on an Italian-flagged ship,” the statement said. The Italians contend that the presence of military personnel aboard the cargo ship is governed by an Italian law conforming to U.N. anti-piracy resolutions, and that such personnel are part of the Italian state and thus immune to the jurisdiction of foreign states.The law on this is unclear - and this aspect of the matter properly is now less a legal issue than a diplomatic one.