India summons Italian ambassador over killing of fishermen

India today summoned the Italian Ambassador here and lodged a strong protest over killing of its two fishermen allegedly by security guards of an Italian ship off Kollam coast on suspicion of being pirates.

However, 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 were killed after guards onboard the Italian merchant vessel fired at them off Alapuzha coast last evening, suspecting them to be pirates.

After the meeting here, 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.

Official sources said there were 11 fishermen in the boat at the time of the incident out of which 9 were sleeping and the driver and another person who were awake were shot dead.

"There was no prior warning as reported by the crew," the sources said, adding the matter was now being investigated by the Navy, Coast Guard and local police.

Asked about the firing, 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."

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