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Algeria Says Its Coastguard Fired Warning Shots Before Killing Jetski Riders

Defence ministry releases its version of events five days after two dual French-Moroccan men were shot dead on entering Algerian waters

Algeria’s defence ministry has said its coastguard fired warning shots before firing directly at a man on a jetski who entered Algerian waters, in an incident that a survivor said left two dead.

The incident took place on Tuesday after five men strayed into Algerian waters on jetskis near the Moroccan coastal resort of Saïdia on Algeria’s border, according to Mohamed Kissi, who said he survived the shooting.

Algeria’s defence ministry released its version of events in a statement on Sunday. “After multiple attempts, shots were fired on a jetski,” the ministry said. It said another body with gunshots wounds was recovered on Wednesday.

Kissi, speaking in a video published by Morocco’s le360 news site, said the group of friends had been approached after dark by an Algerian government vessel. He said he heard the boat firing on the group and his brother Bilal, 29, and another man, Abdelali Mchiouer, 40, were both shot dead.

Another member of their group, Smail Snabi, was detained by the Algerian authorities, Kissi said.

Lawyers for Bilal Kissi and his Moroccan cousin Mechouar said they planned to file a complaint in France on behalf of the two deceased men. Kissi was French-Moroccan and Mechouar held a residence permit in France.

Hakim Chergui, who is acting for the families of the victims, said they are accusing the Algerian authorities of aggravated murder, attempted aggravated murder, the hijacking of a vessel and failure to assist a person in danger.

The break in diplomatic relations between Morocco and Algeria “does not justify the committing of the least crime and even less so the impunity of those responsible”, said a statement from the lawyers. It was issued shortly before the Algerian defence ministry statement was released.

The border between Algeria and Morocco has been closed since 1994 and the two countries have had no diplomatic relations since Algiers cut ties with Rabat in 2021.

“Given that the maritime border area is witnessing intense activity by drug-smuggling gangs and organised crime, coast guard members fired warning shots,” the Algerian statement added.

Kissi disputed the Algerian account. “I did not hear any warning shots. I only heard gunshots directly that killed my brother Bilal,” he told Reuters on Sunday.

He said Abdelali Mchiouer was also shot dead. Mchiouer’s father said they were still waiting for his body to be released so that the family could observe a proper burial for him.

Moroccan authorities said they could not comment on the case, calling it a judicial matter. The Moroccan prosecutor said it was investigating the “violent incident”.

Mohamed and Bilal Kissi, along with Smail Snabi who is presumed to have been arrested, each hold dual Moroccan and French nationality, local media reported.

Morocco’s National Human Rights Council condemned the killing and urged the release of Snabi, who it said was sentenced “rapidly” to 18 months in jail.

France’s foreign ministry said it had learned of the death of one of its nationals and the detention of another in Algeria and was in touch with the families and with authorities in Morocco and Algeria.

Bilal Kissi’s body was found by Moroccan fishers and he was buried near the eastern Moroccan city of Oujda on Wednesday, his brother said.

Source : The Guardian

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