According to a statement by the Indian Coast Guard, two fishermen are now dead due to a tragic case of mistaken identity off the coast of India.
While sailing past the coast of Ambalapuzha, India at 4:30PM on Wednesday, the security detail on board the Italian oil tanker Enrica Lexie incorrectly identified a local fishing boat as a pirate vessel and opened fire.
The Enrica Lexie is a 104,000 DWT oil tanker and was destined for Fujairah. The captain is cooperating with Indian officials pending an official investigation into the incident. The vessel has been ordered to anchor off Kochi.
According to a report by The Hindu,
The deceased were natives of Kanniyakumari district in Tamil Nadu. They were identified as Jelestin, 45, and Pinku, 22. Jelestin has been residing at Moothakara in the city after his marriage. The bodies were brought to Neendakara at 10.45 p.m. with Coastal Police escort.
The Coast Guard launched ships Samar and Lakshmibhai, besides a Dornier maritime reccee aircraft to locate the merchant vessel as soon as the State Police’s Marine Enforcement Wing alerted it of the incident. The Navy also deployed INS Kabra for the operation.
“Fishing boats routinely come close to merchant vessels, forcing them to alter course in order to prevent damage to their fishing nets that have been cast,” said a Coast Guard source.
I spoke with the Indian Coast Guard this evening, but further details were not available at this time. Over the coming days and weeks, this incident will undoubtably cast an enormous spotlight on the use of armed security on board merchant vessels, and particularly, the rules of engagement leading up to the use of deadly force on the high seas.
It appears that the security detail involved could have been part of the Italian Navy’s San Marco Battalion. This report was published earlier today by the Italian website, AGI.it
(AGI) Rome – The Italian Navy has thwarted an attempt made by pirates to board the ‘Enrica Lexie‘ merchant vessel 30 miles west off the southern Indian coast: The riflemen of the San Marco Battalion, on board Italian merchant vessels as the military Protection Unit in areas exposed to threats from pirates, took action at 12:30 Italian time. The presence of the soldiers dissuaded the five pirates on a fishing vessel. Having caught sight of the pirates the soldiers followed procedures opening fire three times so as to dissuade them. After the third volley the pirates left.
Obviously details of the incident are still a bit unclear. We’ll be sure to update as they come in.
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