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Jet Skiers Mistakenly Cross Maritime Border in Morocco, Shot by Algerian Coastguard

Two men jet skiing in Morocco were shot dead by the Algerian coastguard when they strayed across the maritime border between two Mediterranean countries, Moroccan media reported on Thursday. Bilal Kissi and Abdelali Merchouer, both French-Moroccan dual nationals, came under fire after taking a wrong turn off the beach resort of Saidia on Morocco’s northeast tip, the Le360 news website said, citing a witness. A third man, Smail Snabe, also French-Moroccan, was arrested by the Algerian coastguard and appeared before a prosecutor on Wednesday, Le360 reported.

There were four men in the group on Tuesday, all riding jet skis. “We got lost but we kept going until we found ourselves in Algeria,” Mohamed Kissi, the brother of the young man who died, was quoted as saying by the Moroccan website Al Omk. “We knew we were in Algeria because a black Algerian dinghy came towards us,” and those on board “fired at us,” he said. “Thank God I wasn’t hit, but they killed my brother and my friend. They arrested my other friend,” he added.

“Five bullets hit my brother and my friend. My other friend was hit by a bullet,” Kissi was quoted as saying. “We got lost and we were out of fuel,” he said, adding that he was picked up by the Moroccan navy who took him back to the Saidia marina. The incident comes against a backdrop of increased tensions between Algeria and Morocco exacerbated by their antagonism over the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

The border between the North African nations has been closed since 1994, and Algiers severed ties with Rabat in 2021 after accusing its neighbor of “hostile acts,” an accusation Morocco called “completely unjustified.” When asked about the reported shooting of the jet skiers on Thursday, Moroccan government spokesman Mustapha Baitas declined to comment, saying only that it was “a matter for the judiciary.” There was no immediate comment from the Algerian side.