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Algeria says it fired warnings at jet skiers who strayed into its sea from Morocco

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CAIRO (Reuters) – Algeria’s defence ministry said on Sunday its coastguard fired warning shots before firing directly at a man on a jet ski 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 jet skis near the Moroccan coastal resort of Saidia 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 jet ski,” the ministry said. It said another body hit by 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 said 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.

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 organized 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 gun shots directly that killed my brother Bilal,” he told Reuters on Sunday.

He said Abdelali Mchiouer was also shot dead. Mchiouer’s father said they are still waiting for his body to be released to 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 whom 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 fishermen and he was buried near the eastern Moroccan city of Oujda on Wednesday, his brother said.

(Reporting by Hatem Maher, additional reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi, Writing by Adam Makary,; Editing by Ros Russell)

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