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Two Moroccan-French tourists killed by Algerian coastguard

The tourists had strayed into Algerian waters. The incident could further inflame longstanding tensions between Morocco and Algeria.
A policeman watches as people cool off in the water at el-Kettani beach in the Bab el-Oued suburb, Algiers, Algeria, Aug. 15, 2020.

Two Moroccan-French tourists have been killed by the Algerian coastguard, according to multiple reports on Thursday and Friday, adding yet another source of tension to Algeria-Morocco relations.

The two vacationers — Bilal Kissi and Abdelali Merchouer — were shot dead after they strayed into Algerian waters on their jet skis. A third member of the group — Smail Snabe — was arrested by Algerian authorities, while a fourth made it safely back to Morocco. Mohamed Kissi, the brother of Bilal, said they got lost and that an Algerian boat approached them and opened fire, Agence France-Presse reported on Thursday.

The group had set sail from the resort town of Saida in northeast Morocco, close to the Algerian border. The victims are citizens of both France and Morocco, according to AFP.

The French state-owned news outlet France 24 reported that the incident occurred on Tuesday. Algeria and Morocco have not commented on the incident.

Why it matters: The incident could further increase tensions between Morocco and Algeria. The border between the two countries has been closed since 1994, and Algeria severed ties in 2021, accusing its neighbor of “hostile acts.” This led to a rebuke from Morocco.

A major source of friction between the two is Western Sahara. The territory was a Spanish colony until the mid-1970s, and much of it has been occupied by Morocco since then. Morocco controls 80% of the territory while the rest is held by the Algiers-backed Sahrawi nationalists known as the Polisario Front following a 1991 cease-fire.

The Western Sahara issue received more attention in 2020 when the United States, under former President Donald Trump, recognized Morocco’s claim to the area. This came as part of the Abraham Accords in which Morocco normalized diplomatic relations with Israel. In July, Israel recognized Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara.

Know more: Algerian Foreign Minister Ahmed Attaf told Al-Monitor in August that he is “satisfied” with US President Joe Biden’s policy on Western Sahara, saying the current administration has distanced itself from Trump’s support for Morocco’s claim.

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