Two lost jet-skiers shot dead by coastguard

Tensions between Algeria and Morocco heightened after death of holidaymakers who ‘strayed across border’

A jet-skier
The four men, not pictured, were jet-skiing off Saidia in northeast Morocco
(Image credit: Theo Rouby/AFP via Getty Images)

The Algerian coastguard shot dead two tourists who were on holiday in neighbouring Morocco and reportedly got lost while riding jet skis.

Bilal Kissi and Abdelali Merchouer were among four French-Moroccan dual nationals who “came under fire” after setting off from the Moroccan resort of Saidia and “straying across Algeria’s maritime border”, said The Times. A third member of the group was arrested by the coastguard and appeared before a prosecutor on Wednesday, said Moroccan news site Le360.

The shooting “sparked anger” in Morocco after a fisherman posted footage of a lifeless body floating in the sea, said the BBC.

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Mohamed Kissi was the only one of the group to make it back to Morocco. “We knew we were in Algeria because a black Algerian dinghy came towards us,” he told the AFP news agency, and those on board “fired at us”, he added. “Thank God I wasn’t hit but they killed my brother and my friend,” he said.

He denied the group had tried to flee when they were discovered by the coastguard, telling local media that his brother had tried talking to officials before he was shot.

Algeria and Morocco have a “long history of tension, tied to Morocco’s claims to the disputed Western Sahara”, said the BBC. “The border between them was closed in 1994, with Algiers severing ties two years ago.”

Asked yesterday about the reported shooting of the jet-skiers, a Moroccan government spokesperson, Mustapha Baitas, declined to comment, saying only that it was “a matter for the judiciary”. There has been no comment from Algerian officials.

Meanwhile, Kissi’s cousin, the actor Abdelkarim Kissi, has called on authorities in Morocco to bring the case before international courts. “They killed Bilal Kissi my little cousin”, he wrote on social media, adding that “his only fault was crossing the Algerian territorial waters”.

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Chas Newkey-Burden has been part of The Week Digital team for more than a decade and a journalist for 25 years, starting out on the irreverent football weekly 90 Minutes, before moving to lifestyle magazines Loaded and Attitude. He was a columnist for The Big Issue and landed a world exclusive with David Beckham that became the weekly magazine’s bestselling issue. He now writes regularly for The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Independent, Metro, FourFourTwo and the i new site. He is also the author of a number of non-fiction books.