Indian law set in motion in Italian ship shooting: Kerala Police

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India is raging against the killings of two fishermen allegedly by security personnel guarding an Italy-registered vessel.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony on Thursday described the killings as 'very serious' and said the law would take its own course against cargo vessel Enrica Lexie.

"This is very serious. At the same time, it is an unfortunate incident," Antony told reporters on the sidelines of a defence event here to present the Republic Day best marching contingent awards.

"I tell you, the law will take its own course," he said.

He said Kerala Police and the Indian Coast Guard were investigating the shooting incident and also meeting the victims' relatives.

Kerala police move in

Kerala's police chief Jacob Punnoose on Thursday said that Indian law has been set in motion with regard to the killings.

Punnoose said that 'in any country when there is a death taking place like this, a case will be registered and the law of the land would be set in motion'.

"A team of Kerala police from Kochi has been sent to the ship that has been anchored off Kochi to set the ball rolling for the investigation. There are rules also with regard to what information can be shared and what cannot be with regard to this case."

He confirmed that an Italian official has arrived in Kochi and held talks with the police officials there.

Two fishermen, one from Tamil Nadu and the other from Kerala, were reportedly mistaken for pirates and shot dead on Wednesday evening about 14 nautical miles off Alappuzha.

According to the officials attached to the Italian Embassy in New Delhi, the navy personnel on board Enrica Lexie fired warning shots after they were allegedly 'attacked in international waters by people on an Indian fishing vessel'.

'Pool of blood'

The boat in which the two were shot dead had left for fishing a week ago from Kollam.

Freddy, the boat owner who was present when the incident took place around 4.30 p.m. on Wednesday, said there were 11 people on board.

Freddy, from Tamil Nadu, told reporters: "Except for the two who were shot dead, all the other nine were fast asleep. I woke up hearing sounds similar to a gunshot. When I woke up I saw the two workers in a pool of blood. I screamed and shouted and all others also woke up, but by then it was too late."

The bodies of the two fishermen would be handed over to relatives after an autopsy at the Medical College Hospital here.

"The case will now be investigated by the Kollam police because the body was received at Kollam last night. Today (Thursday) they were busy preparing the inquest of the dead and the autopsy," added Punnoose.

Punnoose also said that there are international marine rules and the officials of the ship have that immunity.

The Kerala cabinet met earlier in the day and decided to give Rs.500,000 as compensation each to the next of kin of the two fishermen.

Protest on Friday

The office of the Kerala Fisheries Minister K. Babu said it remained to be seen how the issue is settled as an Italian ship was involved.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has asked the home department to register a case.

Meanwhile, the fish workers owing allegiance to the All India Trade Union Congress have called for a protest on Friday demanding better security.

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