Algeria’s Defense Ministry has acknowledged that its forces fired on a group of people on water scooters who strayed into Algerian waters from Morocco, and that a body was later found. The shooting has provoked national anger in Morocco.
The North African neighbors have no diplomatic relations and their maritime border has been closed since the 1990s because of long-running disputes over the territory of Western Sahara, among other issues. But deadly confrontations in the sea are unusual.
Moroccan media say Algerian forces killed two vacationers in the incident last week. France says a French citizen was among those killed and another French citizen was detained.
A protest was planned Monday in the Moroccan capital, Rabat, to denounce the killings.
The Algerian Defense Ministry said in a statement late Sunday that coast guard units last Tuesday intercepted three water scooters that had clandestinely entered Algerian waters.
“Given the increased activity of drug trafficking gangs and organized crime in this maritime border region and the obstinacy of those riding the water scooters, coast guard personnel fired warning shots. After several attempts, shots were fired, forcing one of the water scooters to stop, while the other two fled,’’ the statement said.
The next day, an Algerian coast guard patrol recovered the body of a man with a bullet hole from a firearm, the statement said, without elaborating. Moroccan forces recovered another body, according to Moroccan media reports.
One of the men on the water scooters, 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 they ran low on gas and drifted into Algerian territory. His brother was killed and was buried in the area last week. The family of the other person killed is seeking repatriation of his body from the Algerian forces, according to Moroccan media reports.
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.