Five days after the dark maritime incident in which two French-Moroccan tourists lost their lives due to gunshots, the Algerian Ministry of Defense has acknowledged that a coast guard boat opened fire on three jet skis from Morocco “that had clandestinely entered” Algerian territorial waters. , according to an official statement released this Sunday afternoon through social networks. The Algerian ministry has also confirmed that one of its maritime surveillance patrols recovered the body of a man suffering from a gunshot wound on August 30, the day after the events. The body, which has not been identified, was deposited in the morgue of a hospital in Tlemcem, a western area of Algeria bordering Morocco.
With the common borders closed since 1994 and diplomatic relations broken for two years, tension has skyrocketed between Morocco and Algeria after the maritime incident that occurred last Tuesday. The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed on Friday the death of a French citizen and the imprisonment of another, also of Moroccan origin. The Moroccan press has claimed that two people died as a result of the shots fired by the Algerian coast guard.
Citing a judicial investigation “due to a violent incident at sea” opened by the Prosecutor’s Office of Oujda, a city bordering Algeria, the Moroccan state news agency MAP identified the fatal victims. They are the Frenchman of Moroccan origin Bilal Kisi, 29, (whose body was found floating in Moroccan waters) and the Moroccan resident in France Abdelali Mechuar, 40, whose body is allegedly in the Algerian morgue.
They were both sailing on jet skis that had left from the Moroccan city of Saidia, on the border with Algeria, where they spent their vacations. They are accompanied by French-Moroccan Ismail Snabe, who was detained by the coast guard crew and taken ashore, and Mohamed Kisi, 33, who managed to swim away, according to what he told the media. He was rescued by a Moroccan gendarmerie boat.
The Algerian Ministry of Defense affirms that the coast guard service members several times stopped the occupants of the jet skis using loudspeakers, who fled with “dangerous maneuvers.” The same Algerian naval force fired warning shots into the air, according to a statement posted on Facebook, due to the “growing activity of drug trafficking gangs and organized crime on the maritime border.” “After several attempts, (the suspects) were shot. One of the jet skis was immobilized and the other two fled,” concludes the ministerial information note.
The statement was released after the relatives of the two French-Moroccans who lost their lives announced this Sunday the presentation of a complaint to the French justice system for “murder and attempted murder with aggravated circumstances, hijacking of boats and failure to provide aid,” according to lawyer Hakim Chergui informed the France Presse agency. A spokesperson for the Rabat Government limited itself to saying last Thursday that the matter was in the hands of the judicial authorities.
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The testimony of French-Moroccan Mohamed Kisi, who survived the incident and was able to escape, has been widely reported by the national press. “At night (on the 29th) we began to run out of fuel and we got lost during the return. In the darkness we turned towards Algerian waters,” he recalls in a video. A boat from the Algerian coast guard then approached the four jet skis, according to Kisi’s account. He claims that his brother Bilal spoke to the military and explained that they were trying to return to Saidia, and that they then opened fire on them.
Breakdown of relationships
The tension between Algeria and Morocco has not stopped growing after the breaking of diplomatic relations in 2021, in a climate of cold war that now seems to fester. Russia is the main arms supplier to Algeria, which supports the Polisario Front in its claim for independence of Western Sahara, under Moroccan control since 1975, after the withdrawal of Spain as a colonial administration. In November 2021, three Algerians died in a Moroccan bombing of trucks traveling through Sahrawi territory from Algeria to Mauritania.
Morocco acquires European and United States weapons, and since 2021 has maintained a military and security cooperation agreement with Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recognized Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara in July in a gesture that has led Algeria to denounce the presence of “hostile foreign forces” at the gates of its country.
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