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India questions Italian ship crew after 2 fishermen shot dead

Indian police and coastguards are questioning the crew of an Italian cargo ship who shot dead two fishermen aboard an Indian trawler off the coast of Kerala.

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The crew aboard the MV Enrica Lexie (pictured) reportedly mistook the Indian trawler for a pirate vessel, and fired on the fishermen believing they were about to be attacked. (STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images)

Indian police and coastguards are questioning the crew of an Italian cargo ship that opened fire on an Indian trawler off the coast of Kerala on Wednesday evening, killing two fishermen.

The navy security team aboard the MV Enrica Lexie mistook the trawler for a pirate vessel, Reuters reported. The crew said they feared their boat was about to be attacked and so they fired in self-defence.

However PG Thomas, a senior official in Kerala, said the firing was unwarranted as there were no weapons onboard the trawler, according to the BBC. The Indian coast guard deployed an aircraft and two boats to intercept the Italian vessel following the attack.

Nine other fishermen on the trawler survived the shootout, the Associated Press reported. The Kerala state government has authorized payments of $10,125 to each of the dead fishermen’s families.

More from GlobalPost: India steps up the fight against piracy

Surinder Pal Singh Basra, inspector general of India’s coast guard, said the Italian ship had violated international protocol by failing to send a distress signal when it encountered the trawler, considered standard procedure during pirate attacks, according to Al Jazeera.

Italy’s ambassador in Delhi was summoned by the foreign ministry on Thursday over the shooting.

Piracy is a serious problem for merchant vessels in the Indian Ocean and Arabian sea, with Somali pirates hijacking boats and holding their crews for ransom.  

More from GlobalPost: Somali piracy has staggering cost

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/india/120217/india-questions-italian-ship-crew-2-fishermen-killed