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Protest lodged with Italy over firing incident at sea

February 16, 2012 22:26 IST

A diplomatic row between India and Italy flared up on Thursday with the Italian Ambassador being summoned and a strong protest lodged over the killing of two fishermen by security guards of an Italian merchant ship off the Kerala coast.

The Union Home Ministry said a case will be registered against the people responsible for the shooting and they will have to face Indian law, as Indian Navy raised serious questions whether the crew of 'Enrica Lexie' acted appropriately in firing at the Indian boat carrying 11 fishermen on suspicions they were a band of pirates.

Defence Minister A K Antony described as "serious and unfortunate" the incident yesterday off Kollam coast.

Italian Ambassador Giacomo Sanfelice di Monteforte, who was summoned by Ministry of External Affairs by Secretary (West) M Ganapathi, said his country's Navy followed the international protocol.

Two fishermen in a boat including its driver were shot dead when security guards onboard the merchant vessel fired at their boat. After the meeting in Delhi, the envoy said the facts of the case are yet to be clarified.

"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 told reporters.

Asked about the firing incident, the envoy said: "The Italian Navy followed the international protocol as it was approached by a vessel which did not stop when flash lights were sent.

The vessel was anchored off the Kochi coast and its crew is being questioned by the police in the ship itself. Indian Navy sources said the Italian vessel had violated the established anti-piracy norms. The security detail on the merchant vessel seemed to be trigger-happy as they directly attacked Indian fishermen, they said.

Union Home Secretary R K Singh said a case will be registered against the people responsible for the firing. Italian Consul General in India GiamPaolo Cutillo also arrived in Kochi and met the crew of the vessel anchored about 50 nautical miles off Kochi coast.

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