Algeria says it has issued warnings to jet skiers entering the sea from Morocco

CAIRO (Reuters) – The Algerian Defense Ministry said on Sunday its coast guard fired warning shots before firing directly at a man on a jet ski who had entered Algerian waters. A survivor said two people died in the incident.

The incident came Tuesday after five men on jet skis got into Algerian waters near the Moroccan coastal town of Saidia on the Algerian border, according to Mohamed Kissi, who said he survived the shooting.

The Algerian Defense Ministry published its version of events in a statement on Sunday. “After several attempts, shots were fired at a jet ski,” the ministry said. Another body with gunshot wounds was said to have been recovered on Wednesday.

Kissi said in a video published by Moroccan news site le360 that the group of friends were hit by an Algerian government ship after dark.

He said he heard the boat firing at the group and said his brother Bilal, 29, and another man, Abdelali Mchiouer, 40, were both shot dead.

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Another member of her group, Smail Snabi, has been arrested by Algerian authorities, Kissi said.

The border between Algeria and Morocco has been closed since 1994 and the two countries have not maintained diplomatic ties since Algiers severed ties with Rabat in 2021.

“Given that there is intense activity by drug smuggling gangs and organized crime in the maritime border area, members of the Coast Guard have fired warning shots,” the Algerian statement said.

Kissi denied the Algerian account. “I didn’t hear any warning shots. I only heard direct shots that killed my brother Bilal,” he told Reuters on Sunday.

He said Abdelali Mchiouer was also shot. Mchiouer’s father said they are still waiting for his body to be released to ensure a proper burial for him.

Moroccan authorities said they could not comment on the case, calling it a judicial matter. Moroccan prosecutors said they were investigating the “violent incident”.

Local media reported that Mohamed and Bilal Kissi, as well as Smail Snabi, who is believed to have been arrested, each have dual Moroccan and French nationality.

Morocco’s National Human Rights Council condemned the killing and called for the release of Snabi, who it said was “quickly” sentenced to 18 months in prison.

The French Foreign Ministry said it had learned of the death of one of its nationals and the detention of another in Algeria and was in contact with the families and authorities in Morocco and Algeria.

Bilal Kissi’s body was found by Moroccan fishermen and buried near the eastern Moroccan city of Oujda on Wednesday, his brother said.

(Reporting by Hatem Maher, additional reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi, text by Adam Makary, editing by Ros Russell)

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