Algeria President in new move to curb influence of intelligence wing in politics

Friday 11/09/2015
Bouteflika is preparing for eventual departure

ALGIERS - Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has replaced his powerful intelligence chief, a security source said on Sunday, in the latest move in a shake-up of the country's security forces.
General Mohamed Mediene, better known as Toufik, had held the post for 25 years before being replaced by his deputy, General Bachir Tartag, the source said.
Tartag is a specialist in fighting against armed groups who also served as Bouteflika's security advisor, the source and APS state media said.
The announcement came a day after Bouteflika's chief of staff confirmed the arrest last month of the former head of counter-terrorism.
General Mohamed Mediene, chief of the DRS intelligence service, had long played the role of political kingmaker, analysts said, by seeking to influence leadership choices in Algeria's behind-the-scenes power struggles.
Bouteflika began easing the military and its DRS intelligence wing out of the political sphere before his re-election last April, in what observers said was preparation for his eventual departure after more than 15 years in power.
Changes in the security apparatus are closely watched in Algeria, a key partner in the Western campaign against Islamist militants since emerging in 2002 from more than a decade of its own conflict during which 200,000 people died.
Bouteflika was re-elected to a fourth term in April last year, but he has rarely been seen in public since recovering from a stroke in 2013, fuelling local media speculation over his ability to serve out his mandate, which ends in 2019.