Morocco rights group calls for action over Algeria jet ski deathsMon, 04 Sep 2023 17:58:46 GMT

A rights organisation on Monday called on Morocco to take action against Algeria over the deaths of two tourists allegedly shot last week by the Algerian coastguard. “We are calling for serious action on the part of the Moroccan government, to hold the Algerian state accountable before international bodies,” Hicham Mellioui, the head of the Moroccan League for Citizenship and Human Rights, told AFP. Bilal Kissi, a 29-year-old French-Moroccan holidaymaker, and his cousin Abdelali Mechouar, 40, a Moroccan resident of France, were killed on Tuesday by the Algerian coastguard after getting lost at sea on a jet-ski, their brother who was with the group told Moroccan media.The two tourists died after straying from Moroccan waters into Algerian territory.The incident comes at a time of increased tensions between the neighbouring North African countries, exacerbated by antagonism over the disputed Western Sahara territory. Lawyers for the victims’ families said on Sunday that they would be filing legal proceedings in France over the incident. Around 20 people gathered in front of Morocco’s parliament building to protest the deaths, brandishing Moroccan flags and placards reading, “the Algerian navy kills two young Moroccans”. “This tragedy pains us. It’s unspeakable,” said protester Hassen El-Ghazi. Algeria’s defence ministry on Sunday said its security forces had opened fire on the jet skiers “after issuing an audible warning and ordering them to stop several times”, adding that “the suspects refused to comply and fled”.The defence ministry said that after several warning rounds, “shots were fired, forcing one of the jet skis to stop, and the other two fled”.The ministry said the shootings happened “because of increased activity by drugs-trafficking gangs and organised crime” in the border zone, and because of “the obstinacy of those on the jet skis”.The remains of Kissi were found in the Moroccan seaside town of Saidia, while Mechouar’s body is still believed to be in Algeria. A third man, Smail Snabe, was wounded and detained in Algeria, according to media reports in Morocco on Friday. Kissi’s brother Mohamed, who had also been in the group, said they got lost and ran out of fuel after leaving the Moroccan resort of Saidia, near the border with Algeria. He said he managed to leave the area after the incident and was picked up by the Moroccan navy. Rabat has yet to make an official statement, but the public prosecutor’s office in northeastern city of Oujda has opened an investigation to determine the circumstances of “a violent incident at sea”, a judicial source was quoted as saying by state news agency MAP. Morocco’s state-run National Human Rights Council (CNDH) on Sunday condemned the use of live fire by the Algerian coastguard against “defenceless citizens, instead of helping people lost at sea”.