French Citizen Killed After Straying Into Algerian Waters

By John Mercury September 5, 2023

Algerian coast guard forces shot and killed a French citizen and detained another after they strayed on water scooters 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 in Saidia, a popular beach resort in northeastern Morocco, when they lost their bearings and, low on fuel, drifted into Algerian waters on Tuesday. 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 any of those 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 younger sibling had gotten lost on the water scooters with a cousin and two friends. They went into the water about 4 p.m. local time, ate some fish and started heading back to the Moroccan port at about 7:30 p.m.

“It started getting dark,” Mr. Kissi said. “We were running out of gas. We kept going, not knowing where we were heading.” He said they could no longer see the rocks of the marina where they had come from.

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, “we heard gun shots,” he said.

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

“My brother had fallen into the water, dead,” he said.

Mohammed Kissi was later rescued by the Moroccan Royal Navy, which also pulled his brother’s body from the water.

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

The Algerian authorities have not commented on the shooting.

There were some 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 and the Moroccan authorities have not provided any information on the casualties.

“We are in contact with the Moroccan and Algerian authorities,” the French 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 French ministry said.


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