The search and seizure of weapons and material onboard Enrica Lexie, the Italian oil-tanker involved in the shooting to death of two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast on February 15, started on Saturday amid apprehensions by other agencies over the efficacy of the effort.

Sources in the Customs pointed out an oversight on the part of the State police in failing to keep the weapons aboard the ship sealed and under lock and key in the first few days after it was brought to Kochi.

The search was launched around 10.30 a.m. and by the time City Police Commissioner M.R. Ajith Kumar, who heads the Special Investigation Team formed by the police, emerged from it by 7 p.m., only 25 per cent of the process was complete.

“The team has been searching the entire ship and seizing weapons and other objects required for the case. This is being done in the presence of Italian technical experts, as requested by them. It is being done on the basis of a warrant issued by the Kollam [Judicial First Class Magistrate] court,” Mr. Ajith Kumar said, briefing the media.

There were indications that the weapons, believed to be of Italian make and allegedly used in the attack, were also recovered. It was pointed out that the details of the weapons could be established only after an examination by the State Forensic and Scientific Laboratory in Thiruvananthapuram.

Two Italian marines among the six posted on the ship have been arrested in connection with the firing. The ship was brought to the Kochi port past midnight on February 16. However, when Customs officials boarded it on February 22, they spotted arms and ammunition in a cabin on the fourth deck.

In a report filed with higher authorities, Customs officials said the cabin also doubled up as the living space of one of the security officials.The report also mentioned that the ship was anchored in the outer sea after the accused marines were taken off and arrested by the police.

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