February 17th, 2012
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Shooting of Indian fishermen: Detailed inquiry to be held today

Italian-shipNew Delhi: The Union Home Minister has issued an order for the arrest of the Italian oil tanker workers who shot dead two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast. The armed guards on the Italian merchant navy ship are facing murder charges after taking bullet injuries as evidence. The guilty crew shall be interrogated today.

The Ministry of Shipping has demanded a detailed inquiry into the incident and Ministry of External affairs has granted permission for the same. The investigation shall be under the leadership of the Director of Shipping. Meanwhile the bodies of the fishermen shall be cremated today.

The state cabinet has decided to grant Rs 5 lakh each as solatium to the families of the two fishermen. The government will meet all expenses for prefering legal claims from the owners of the ship. The Kollam District Collector has issued Rs 10,000 to meet the current needs of the family.

Italian Ambasssador Giacomo Sanfelice di Monteforte was summoned by the MEA yesterday. According to him the country’s Navy had followed procedures before opening fire at the two fishermen who had set out to sea from the Needakara fishing harbour. Italian Consul General GIam Paolo Cutillo visited Kochi police Commissioner MR Ajith Kumar and held talks about the future course of action.

Defence Minister has termed the incident as “very serious and unfortunate”. “At this stage saying too much is not correct. But I can tell you that law will take its own course,” he added.  Vice Admiral KN Sushil, Flag Oficer Commanding in Chief of the Southern Naval Command said, ” It is crystal clear that the fishermen were unarmed and were not attempting to come alongside the tanker to board it. As the tanker crew claims to have been fired upon, I sent the fast attack craft INS Kabra to ascertain if there were bullet marks on it. We found none,” he said.

The Ministry of External Affairs told,”There is no doubt that the shooting took place in Indian territorial waters. We told Italy we expect its full cooperation with the investigation.”

The Italian vessel, which was on its way to Egypt from Singapore was carrying 25 crew members, including 19 Indians and six armed security personnels from the Italian Navy onboard. According to sources the Naval personnel who shot at the fishermen are the riflemen of San Marco Battalion of Indian Navy. They claim that the fishermen tried to attack them and that is when they retaliated with fire. Indian authorities believe that the vessel did not follow the proper practices for the action to be taken in the face of an imminent pirate attack.

“The first step according to the international guidelines is to communicate. But the UK Maritime Trade Operations, the Indian Navy, The Indian Coast Guard  have not received any communication from the cargo ship,” an authority said.



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