French Citizen Killed After Straying Into Algerian Waters

Algerian coast guards shot and killed a French citizen and detained another after they strayed on jet skis into Algerian waters from Morocco, where they were vacationing, the French authorities said on Friday.

Moroccan news outlets have reported that five men were on holiday Tuesday in Saidia, a popular beach resort in northeastern Morocco, when they lost their bearings and, low on fuel, drifted into Algerian waters. At least some of the five had dual French and Moroccan citizenship.

Relations between Algeria and Morocco have been strained for years and their border has been closed since 1994. In 2021, with a dispute over Western Sahara still simmering and also partly in protest at Morocco’s rapprochement with Israel, the Algerian government broke off diplomatic relations with its neighbor.

A French Foreign Ministry statement on Friday did not name the French nationals involved. But local media in Morocco identified the dead man as Bilal Kissi. His funeral was broadcast by Le 360, a Moroccan news website.

His brother, Mohammed Kissi, told reporters on Thursday that he and his sibling had gotten lost after an afternoon on the water scooters with a cousin and two friends.

“It started getting dark,” Mr. Kissi said. “We were running out of gas. We kept going, not knowing where we were heading.”

Mr. Kissi said the group was approached by a black, inflatable boat from the Algerian coast guard. After speaking to the guards, his brother pointed in the direction of Morocco, Mr. Kissi said. Then, suddenly, he said, “we heard gun shots.”

His brother and one of the friends were hit, while the coast guard arrested another friend, Mr. Kissi said.

“I was screaming their names for an hour,” Mr. Kissi said, adding that he was later rescued by the Moroccan Royal Navy.

The Algerian authorities had not yet publicly commented on the incident.

“This is the responsibility of the judicial authorities,” Mustapha Baitas, a Moroccan government spokesman, said at a news conference on Thursday.

There were conflicting accounts of the circumstances of the shooting, the number of victims and their nationalities. Moroccan news reports said on Thursday that two dual French and Moroccan citizens had been killed and a third arrested.

But the French ministry statement said one French citizen was killed and one was detained.

“We are in contact with the Moroccan and Algerian authorities,” the statement said, adding that French prosecutors had been notified. It is standard practice for French prosecutors to open an inquiry when French citizens die abroad.

“It will be up to the courts to shed full light on the circumstances of this tragedy,” the ministry said.

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