Morocco begins investigation after Algeria jet ski killings

Victims were part of a group of four French-Moroccan dual citizens who set off from Morocco's resort of Saidia

Relatives carry the body of Bilal Kissi, shot dead by the Algerian coastguard when he and a fellow jet skier strayed across the maritime border between Algeria and Morocco, during his funeral in the city of Saidia in north-eastern Morocco. AFP
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Morocco is investigating the death of a French-Moroccan after he and another Moroccan tourist on jet skis were shot by Algerian coastguards.

There has been no official comment from either Algiers or Rabat about Tuesday's incident, at a time of increased tensions between the two North African countries.

The public prosecutor's office in Oujda bordering Algeria ordered an investigation on Wednesday after “statements by a person saying they were the victim”, along with others, “of a violent incident at sea”, a judicial source told the official Map news agency on Friday.

It cited the source as saying five tourists were involved who “may have got lost at sea during an outing”.

The websites Al Omk and reported earlier that an investigation had begun into the death of one man, Bilal Kissi, “after the discovery of his body on the beach at Saidia”, about three kilometres from the border with Algeria.

Saidia is a summer seaside resort known for its long beach and water sports.

Kissi lived in France and had left Saidia with his older brother Mohamed, their Moroccan cousin Abdelali Mechouar and their friend Smail Snabe, also said to be French-Moroccan, on jet skis on Tuesday.

The website Le360 gave Bilal Kissi's age as 29 and his brother's as 33, and said Mechouar was a 40-year-old who had moved to France aged 10.

Moroccan tourists killed by Algerian coastguard

Moroccan tourists killed by Algerian coastguard

“We got lost but we kept going until we found ourselves in Algeria,” Mohamed Kissi was quoted as saying by Al Omk on Thursday.

“We knew we were in Algeria because a black Algerian dinghy came towards us” and those on board “fired at us”.

After the shooting, Mohamed Kissi was able to get back to Morocco and report what had happened.

He told authorities after being picked up by the navy that the jet skiers had become lost and run out of fuel.

Mechouar's body is still in Algeria, Moroccan media reported on Friday, adding that Snabe had been wounded and was being detained by the authorities there.

Bilal Kissi was buried on Thursday in Bni Drar village near Oujda, in the presence of dozens of relatives.

“We buried a brother and want Abdelali's body back. He's our cousin,” a video released by Al Omk showed a cousin of Bilal Kissi saying at his funeral.

“We want to give him a dignified burial so his mother can have closure,” added the cousin, whose name was not given.

“These young people weren't involved in drugs and they hadn't stolen anything. They are of good standing and were only here on a family holiday” from France where they worked, the cousin said.

“One (of those who died) left two children, the other a daughter.”

Le360 reported that Bilal Kissi had two children, a two-year-old and a six-month-old, and Mechouar was the father of a five-year-old.

In Paris, the Foreign Ministry reported only one death without providing the circumstances, saying another of its citizens had been jailed in “an incident involving several of our nationals”.

It did not release the identity of the person it said had been killed.

France said its “crisis support centre and our embassies in Morocco and Algeria are in close contact with our fellow citizens' families, to whom we are offering every support”.

Tuesday's deadly shooting comes at a time of increased tensions between Morocco and Algeria, exacerbated by their antagonism over the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

The border between the two countries has been closed since 1994, and Algeria broke off diplomatic ties in August 2021, accusing Morocco of “hostile acts” – a decision Rabat called “completely unjustified”.

In July, Morocco's King Mohammed VI said he hoped for a return to normality and reopening of borders with Algeria.

However, Israel's recognition of “Morocco's sovereignty” over the Western Sahara added to tensions with Algeria, which called the Israeli move a “flagrant violation of international law”.

Updated: September 02, 2023, 6:58 AM