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Armed Guards Kill Two Indian Fisherman- “…suspected to be pirates” February 21, 2012

Posted by Chris Mark in Industry News, Piracy & Maritime Security.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

According to the Times of India, armed guard aboard an Italian merchant (Enrica Lexie) vessel shot and killed two Indian fisherman last night that they “…suspected to be pirates.”  According to the Italian government, the vessel did not respond to warning lights.  According to the Indian fisherman, no prior warning was given.  Here is where it gets somewhat questionable: “Two fishermen in a boat were killed after guards onboard the Italian merchant vessel fired at them off Alapuzha coast last evening, suspecting them to be pirates.”  While the facts are not yet public on what exactly happened, my personal view is that this particular episode is has serious issues. Based on other reports, the guards were members of the Italian navy and NOT private security.

First, the fisherman were killed at night near the Indian coast.  While there have been a few pirate attacks at night, they are very rare. It is also statistically rare for pirates to attack near India.  You would think that the armed guards would use more discretion at night as there is a greater chance of mis identification.  The fact that it is stated that they were ‘suspected to be pirates’ is a major red flag.  You do NOT shoot and kill people you ‘suspect of being pirates’.  Anyone with any training in security and the use of force (the force continuum) understands this point.  The fact that they were killed on a boat at night suggests one of two things.  First, the boat was close enough for the armed guards to see them clearly enough to engage and kill them or two the armed guards were using optics (night vision etc.) which enabled them to identify the targets and engage them.  In either event, by being able to engage the people, the guards are conceding that they could see them and identify them. In this scenario, how were the guards not able to identify them as fishermen?  Alternatively, if the guards were either close enough to identify and shoot the people why did they not 1) shoot do disable the vessel? or 2) fire warning shots around and then into the vessel? From the information available, it is difficult to see how these guards were acting in a manner consistent with the use of force or international law.  The excuse that the boat did not “…stop when flash lights were sent” is absurd to immediately move to the use of deadly force. There were not shots by the ‘suspected pirates’ and nothing aside from their failing to respond to flashing lights to indicate they had bad intentions.

This is, in my mind, a case of cowboys who wanted to shoot at something or someone.  I cannot understand how ‘suspected pirates’ are killed at night by armed guards without moving through the force continuum first.  Unfortunately, the fallout will be felt by the private security companies that work hard to conduct themselves with professionalism.


1. Shinji - February 22, 2012

Cowboys who wanted to kill someone? Are you serious? They were Italian Navy officers, on duty. To describe what (if they are responsible at all) has most likely be just a tragic accident, as a murder of first degree does not help truth and peace. You are mounting a dangerous case with your words.

Chris Mark - February 22, 2012

The fact that they were ‘officers on duty’ does not excuse the fact that they (apparently) did not follow accepted practices in the use of force or the force continuum. To describe it as a ‘tragic accident’ is minimizing their actions and the deaths of the two sailors. Professional military personnel and guards are responsible for their actions. They a trained to use firearms and trained in the use of force and the force continuum. I cannot envision a scenario where trained, professionals who can identify personnel on a boat, at night with such clarity as to shoot them can ‘accidentally’ kill them without being negligent.

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