ALGIERS: Algeria said on Sunday its security forces had opened fire this week on a group of jet skiers from Morocco after they refused to comply with orders to stop.

“During a security patrol inside our territorial waters, a coastguard unit intercepted on Tuesday at 7:47pm, three jet skis that clandestinely entered our territorial waters,” a defence ministry press release said.

“After issuing an audible warning and ordering them to stop several times, the suspects refused to comply and fled,” it added of Tuesday’s shooting incident, in which two tourists were killed.

The defence ministry said that after several warning rounds, “shots were fired, forcing one of the jet skis to stop, and the other two fled”.

The ministry said the shootings happened “because of increased activity by drugs-trafficking gangs and organised crime” in the border zone, and because of “the obstinacy of those on the jet skis”.

Reports from Morocco said French-Moroccan tourist Bilal Kissi, 29, and his Moroccan cousin Abdelali Mechouar, 40, were killed.

A third man, Smail Snabe, was wounded and detained in Algeria, according to media reports in Morocco on Friday.

Kissi’s brother Mohamed, who had also been in the group, said they got lost and ran out of fuel after leaving the Moroccan resort of Saidia, near the border with Algeria. He said he managed to leave the area after the incident and was picked up by the Moroccan navy.

Tuesday’s deadly shooting comes at a time of increased tensions between Algeria and Morocco, exacerbated by antagonism over the disputed Western Sahara territory.

Published in Dawn, September 4th, 2023

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