Two fishermen, who had left for fishing in a mechanised boat from the Neendakara Fishing Harbour here seven days ago, were shot dead in the high seas off Ambalapuzha on Wednesday evening. According to a statement from the Coast Guard office in Kochi, the fishermen were fired upon mistaking them to be pirates.
The ship from which the fishermen were fired was identified as Enrica Lexie and its captain had reported the development to the Coast Guard authorities. The ship was located and ordered to anchor off Kochi for detailed investigations. The fishermen were fired by the security unit of the ship.
The deceased were natives of Kanniyakumari district in Tamil Nadu. They were identified as Jelestin, 45, and Pinku, 22. Jelestin has been residing at Moothakara in the city after his marriage. The bodies were brought to Neendakara at 10.45 p.m. with Coastal Police escort.
District Collector P.G. Thomas and senior police officers from the district were present. The boat, St. Antony, is owned by one Freddy, a native of Kolachal also in Tamil Nadu. The boat had gone for hook and line tuna fishing. Mr. Freddy, who was in the boat at the time of the incident, said that the firing took place at 4.30 p.m.
Jelestin was the first person to fall dead. The boat was riddled with a shower of bullets and a little later Pinku was also fatally hit. The firing lasted for about two minutes. There were nine others in the boat and they quickly sailed away from the vicinity of the ship. The cause of the firing appeared a mystery, Mr. Freddy said. He said they were well within the territorial waters.
The bodies were kept at the mortuary of the district hospital here and will be handed over to relatives after the autopsies at the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College Hospital on Thursday.
Armed guards in vessels
S. Anandan writes from Kochi The Coast Guard launched ships Samar and Lakshmibhai, besides a Dornier maritime reccee aircraft to locate the merchant vessel as soon as the State Police's Marine Enforcement Wing alerted it of the incident. The Navy also deployed INS Kabra for the operation.
“Fishing boats routinely come close to merchant vessels, forcing them to alter course in order to prevent damage to their fishing nets that have been cast. We have told the fisheries department time and again to sensitise fishermen to the perils of doing so, especially after armed security guards began to be deployed on merchant vessels,” said a Coast Guard source.
Last year many countries decided to allow their merchant vessels to carry private armed guards for self-defence after the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), concerned about the rising incidence of piracy in the Indian Ocean, recommended this as a means to thwart skiff-borne pirate attacks.
The incident is reported to have taken place in international waters