India police detain Italians accused of killing fishermen

NEW DELHI Sun Feb 19, 2012 11:55am EST

A man looks at the Napoli registered Italian merchant vessel Enrica Lexie anchored at the Cochin Oil Terminal (COT) in the southern Indian city of Kochi February 17, 2012. Two fishermen were killed when a navy security team on an Italian merchant vessel opened fire on a boat it mistook for pirates at sea off the coast of Kerala, officials said on Thursday. REUTERS/Sivaram V.

A man looks at the Napoli registered Italian merchant vessel Enrica Lexie anchored at the Cochin Oil Terminal (COT) in the southern Indian city of Kochi February 17, 2012. Two fishermen were killed when a navy security team on an Italian merchant vessel opened fire on a boat it mistook for pirates at sea off the coast of Kerala, officials said on Thursday.

Credit: Reuters/Sivaram V.

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Indian police on Sunday detained two members of the Italian navy accused of killing two Indian fisherman they mistook for pirates off the coast of the southern state of Kerala, officials said.

The Italians, members of a navy security team, were on an Italian merchant vessel when the incident happened on Wednesday. Since last October their regiment has supplied specialist "anti-pirate" personnel to accompany cargo ships that request help.

The two accused have been taken to the coastal town of Kochi where they will be interrogated by police, a police officer, who did not wish to be identified, told Reuters.

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs said the Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi Di Santagata had called his Indian counterpart S.M. Krishna on Saturday to discuss finding "a mutually acceptable procedure to establish the facts beyond any doubt and determine responsibilities."

The fishermen were unarmed, and the law should be allowed to take its course, the Indian statement said.

"The external affairs minister conveyed to the Italian foreign minister that it was unfortunate that innocent lives had been lost which could have been avoided had the naval personnel on board Enrica Lexie been careful and exercised restraint," the statement said.

Italy's ambassador to India was last week summoned to a meeting with an official at the Foreign Office to explain what had happened. The ambassador was asked to ensure the crew of the ship cooperate with Indian authorities.

A team of Italian diplomats are expected to arrive in New Delhi on Sunday to discuss the matter with Indian authorities, local media reported citing sources.

(Reporting by Anurag Kotoky)

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