The two victims were named as Bilal Kissi and Abdelali Mechouer, both French-Moroccan dual nationals, by Morocco’s Le360 news site. They were reportedly part of a group of four who were targeted with gunfire after inadvertently setting off in the wrong direction from the Saidia resort in northeast Morocco.
Smail Snabe, another French-Moroccan, was arrested by the Algerian coast guard, accoridng to Le360. The only member of the group to make it safely back to Morocco was Mohamed Kissi, who spoke about the incident with local media.
“We got lost but we kept going until we found ourselves in Algeria,” Kissi said, according to the AFP news agency. “We knew we were in Algeria because a black Algerian dinghy came towards us,” Kissi said, and those in the boat then “fired at us.”
“Thank God I wasn’t hit, but they killed my brother and my friend,” he said. “They arrested my other friend.” He added that the group had “got lost and we were out of fuel,” and that he escaped the same fate as the others by being picked up by the Moroccan navy as he swam for his life.
Kissi also denied that the group had made an attempt to flee the Algerian coast guard, telling reporters that his brother had attempted to speak to the officials before they opened fire. A Moroccan fisherman later found one of the bodies in the water and shared online a video of the lifeless man floating in the waves.
Abdelkarim Kissi, an actor who is the cousin of both Mohamed and Bilal, expressed outrage at the incident and called for Moroccan authorities to take the case to international courts. “They killed Bilal Kissi my little cousin,” he wrote online. “His only fault was crossing the Algerian territorial waters, he was on vacation with his friends.”
Moroccan media reported that Snabe, the arrested tourist, appeared before an Algerian prosecutor on Wednesday, but any charges against him have not been disclosed. A spokesperson for the Moroccan government would not comment on the case to the AFP, saying it was a “matter for the judiciary.”
The killings come amid declining relations between Algeria and Morocco. The North African countries have long disputed the status of the Western Sahara and the border between the nations has been closed since 1994. Two years ago, Algeria broke off diplomatic ties with Morocco altogether, accusing its neighbor of “hostile acts.” Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune told Al Jazeera in March that relations with Morocco had “practically reached the point of no return.”