RABAT, Morocco — Algerian forces killed two men and detained a third after they strayed across Morocco’s maritime border with Algeria on water scooters, according to Moroccan media reports.
Such deadly run-ins are rare on the border, which 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.
A French citizen was among those killed Tuesday, and the detained man is also French, the French Foreign Ministry said Friday. Moroccan media reports said the men involved were French-Moroccan dual citizens.
Moroccan prosecutors opened an investigation into a “violent sea incident” involving five people on water scooters, the official Moroccan news agency MAP reported. Moroccan officials haven’t provided details about what happened.
Algerian police and coast guard officials did not respond to requests for comment.
Mohamed Kissi told Moroccan news website 360.ma that he, his brother Bilal and 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, a new sites known as being close with the Moroccan royal palace.
He said a speedboat with the word “Algeria” on its side approached the water scooter his brother was riding and the armed forces onboard 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. Another wounded friend was detained, Kissi said. He said he swam to escape until he was rescued by Moroccan maritime police.
The website published a video of Bilal Kissi’s funeral, which took place Thursday in the Moroccan border town of Bni Drar. It said Mechouer’s family was seeking repatriation of his body from the Algerian forces.
Asked about the confrontation, Moroccan government spokesperson Mustapha Baitas said, “these issues are within the jurisdiction of the judicial authority,” and would not provide further comment.
MAP reported that the prosecutor’s office in the northern city of Oujda opened an investigation Tuesday based on statements from an individual who said that he and four other young men on Jet Skis were involved in a violent sea accident.
Prosecutors interviewed family members and friends of the young men, and the investigation is ongoing, MAP said.
The Paris prosecutor’s office has been informed of the incident, the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding that it was up to judicial authorities to determine what happened. The French government is in contact with the families of the French citizens as well as with Moroccan and Algerian authorities, the ministry said.