RABAT, Morocco (AP) — Two French-Moroccan men were killed by Algerian forces after they strayed across Morocco’s maritime border with Algeria on water scooters, according to Moroccan media reports.
The border has long been closed because of deep tensions between the two North African neighbors, linked to the disputed territory of Western Sahara among other issues. Deadly run-ins on the maritime border are rare.
Algerian police and coast guard officials did not respond to requests for comment Friday on the reported killings Tuesday. The French Foreign Ministry did not immediately comment.
Mohamed Kissi told Moroccan news website 360.ma that he, his brother Bilal and two friends were on vacation and riding personal watercraft off the coast of the Moroccan town of Saaidia when night began to fall. “We were low on gas for the water scooters and were drifting. In the darkness, we found ourselves in Algerian waters,” he told 360.ma.
He said a speedboat carrying armed forces with the word “Algeria” on its side approached the water scooter his brother was riding on and they exchanged words.
Kissi said the Algerian forces then fired on the group, and his brother was killed along with friend Abdelali Mechouer, according to 360.ma. Their other friend was wounded and detained by Algerian forces, Kissi said. He said he swam to escape until he was rescued by Moroccan maritime police.
The website published video of the emotional funeral for Bilal Kissi on Thursday in the Moroccan border town of Bni Drar. It said that Mechouer’s family is seeking repatriation of his body, recovered by Algerian forces.
Asked Thursday about the confrontation, Moroccan government spokesperson Mustapha Baitas said that “these issues are within the jurisdiction of the judicial authority,” and would not provide further comment.