The president of Algeria dismissed the head of the country’s military intelligence agency on Sunday in a move to curb the chief spy’s political influence.
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika replaced Mohamed Mediene with General Athmane Tartag a specialist in war against armed groups and a serving security advisor to the president. Tartag will be heading the Département du Renseignement et de la Sécurité (DRS).
Ex-chief spy Mohamed Mediene popularly known as Toufik is a powerful figure in the country having served the intelligence service for more than 20 years.
The president has been restructuring the military and the intelligence service which has included sacking several top generals. Election observers have seen this as the president’s last measures before the end of his 15 year reign.
Bouteflika has transferred some of DRS’ duties to the army in order to strip the agency of the mandate that allows it to interfere with politics in the country, leaving it with the core duties of collecting intelligence for the armed forces.
“Bouteflika wants a more civilian state with no DRS interference in politics,” security analyst Anis Rahmani said. “Mediene’s departure, I think, ends the DRS’ time as a political tool.”
Algeria’s former counter – terrorism Chief Abdelkader Ait-Ouarabi, better known as “General Hassan” is said to have been arrested a few weeks ago as part of the reforms to remove the military influence from politics. Algeria’s generals became part of politics in 1990s civil war witnessed in the country. A story that president Bouteflika is trying to change before serving out his mandate, which ends in 2019.
Bouteflika was re-elected for his fourth term last year but has rarely been seen in the public since recuperating from a stroke in 2013.