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Moroccans carry posters during a demonstration in Rabat on 4 September, 2023, condemning the killing of two jet skiers by the Algerian coastguard after they strayed across the maritime border between the two countries. (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP) (Photo by FADEL SENNA/AFP via Getty Images)

Algeria Confirms Coast Guard Fired on Moroccan Tourists, Killing Two

Last week, four tourists departed the Moroccan resort town of Saidia on three jet skis. 

On 3 September, the Algerian defense ministry issued a statement obtained by the BBC saying its coast guard issued a warning to the tourists that went unheeded, then fired at the men who had strayed into Algerian waters. Two of the tourists were killed, one was injured and detained by Algerian authorities, and the fourth was rescued by Moroccan authorities.

The Algerian statement said the coast guard opened fire after warnings “because of increased activity by drugs-trafficking gangs and organized crime” and because of “the obstinacy of those on the jet skis.”

The survivor rescued by Morocco said the group had gotten lost and was running low on fuel as nightfall was approaching. He said the Algerian boats opened fire without warning.

According to the BBC report, one of the bodies was retrieved near Saidia, on the Moroccan side while the other washed up on the Algerian side, and is being held by the Algerian government for examination. The wounded jet skier was tried quickly and sentenced to 18 months in prison in Algeria, according to the report.

Morocco, formerly a French protectorate, and Algiers, formerly a French colony, have had tense relations for more than half a century—relations that never recovered from a brief war in 1963. The countries have a long-running territorial dispute over the Western Sahara region. Morocco claims sovereignty and Algeria supports a faction calling for the region’s independence. The border between the countries closed in 1994 and all diplomatic relations between the two countries ceased in 2021.

The Moroccan government has not commented on the incident, citing its investigation of it. Morocco's National Council for Human Rights, however, condemened the actions of Algeria's coast guard and called the incident a “severe violation of international standards and human rights laws,” the Associated Press reports. 

One of the victims was a dual citizen of France and Morocco, and the French government has also opened an investigation into the matter.