General Ahmed Gaïd Salah, a powerful chief of staff of the Algerian army, pillar of the regime since 1962, died Monday at 79 years of a heart attack, public television announced on Monday.
In the spotlight after having snatched the resignation of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in April under pressure from the street, General Gaïd Salah was the face of the military high command who openly assumed the reality of power until the election on December 12 of Abdelmadjid Tebboune as head of state.
« The Deputy Minister of Defense, Chief of the Defense Staff died Monday morning of a heart attack, » announced a presenter on national television Algeria 3, reading a press release from the presidency. of the Republic.
President Tebboune has declared three days of national mourning and instructed General Said Chengriha, commander of the Land Forces, to act in the interim, the presenter continued.
Born on January 13, 1940, engaged at the age of 17 in the National Liberation Army (NLA) fighting the French colonial power according to his official biography, Ahmed Gaïd Salah was one of the last representatives within the army of veterans of the War of Independence, a past from which Algerian leaders have long drawn their legitimacy.
Appointed Chief of the Defense Staff in 2004 by President Bouteflika, he holds the record for longevity in this position.
Present at the nomination of the new president
He was a steadfast supporter of Mr. Bouteflika throughout his presidency, before obtaining his resignation in April to try to calm the popular protest movement (“Hirak”) born a month earlier from the will of the outgoing president of running for a fifth term.
But General Gaïd Salah quickly became very unpopular within the movement by appearing as the guarantor of the survival of the « system » which has ruled Algeria since 1962 and whose « Hirak » intends to dismantle.
His death comes 11 days after a presidential election which he had held on December 12 to elect a successor to Mr. Bouteflika, despite fierce opposition from the “Hirak” who saw this election as a maneuver by the “system” to regenerate .
General Gaïd Salah was still present last Thursday for the inauguration ceremony of Mr. Tebboune as new President of the Republic.