Marines may have used telescopic sight-mounted assault rifle

The State police suspect that the Italian marines on board the merchant vessel Enrica Lexie could have possibly used a telescopic sight-mounted Beretta 5.56 mm assault rifle to target two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast last week.

A senior police official said the rifle was standard issue for the Italian armed forces. They also used the Heckler and Koch and M 4 assault rifles of the same calibre and high power sniper rifles of Italian make.

However, the make of the “murder weapon” could be confirmed only when all the firearms on board the Italian vessel were confiscated and forensically examined.

One of the Indian fishermen had died of a gun shot injury to the head. The other died from a bullet wound to the chest. The officer said the shots were extremely difficult to take.

The shooters were on a several metres high “pitching and rolling platform” on the sea. Their targets were on a “bobbing” fishing boat at least 300 m away. The bullet marks on the boat and the wounds on the victims showed a “descending trajectory”.

He said the shots would have possibly missed target had the shooters used the weapon's “iron sights”, aligned metal markers on the rear and front sights that were standard fit on most firearms.

Sniper team

He said it was also possible that the shooters worked as a sniper team, one acting as the shooter and the other as his “spotter” to observe the target, assess atmospheric conditions, guide the angle of fire, and examine the results of the shots.

The police said once the weapons were recovered they would be produced before the court and sent to the State Forensic Sciences Laboratory here for ballistic examination.

The bullets recovered from the scene of the crime would be matched with weapons through a method described as ballistic fingerprinting. Forensic experts said they would test fire the weapons and examine the expended ammunition to find out which firearm was used to commit the crime.

They said that the impression the firing pin of a gun leaves on the bullet casing was unique to the weapon just like the infinitesimal abrasions caused on the projectile by its rifled or smooth bored barrel.

The FSL would use its latest Leica FSC Comparison microscope to examine the projectiles.

  • Rifle standard issue for Italian armed forces

  • All firearms aboard the ship to be confiscated