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Algeria military leader Gaid Salah dies amid political chaos

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Algeria military leader Gaid Salah dies amid political chaos
Algeria military leader Gaid Salah dies amid political chaos. Array
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The man broadly seen as Algeria's de facto leader has died aged 79, leaving the North African country in a state of uncertainty as demonstrations against the military elite continue.

Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaid Salah died suddenly of a heart attack on Monday, with the army moving quickly to put a successor in place to maintain its hold on power in Algeria.

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who only came to power this month following an election boycotted by many Algerians, named the head of the land forces, General Said Chengriha, as the new acting chief of staff to replace Gaed Salah.

Chengriha, 74, is from the same generation of powerful generals as Gaed Salah, with both men having started their careers in the guerrilla forces that rose up against French colonial rule.

Read more: Is the Middle East seeing a new Arab Spring?

Le Pouvoir

Salah had become the most visible figure in Le Pouvoir, the "power", as Algerians describe their ruling elite, which helped to bring down President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in April.

Many saw the general as the guardian of the system in power ever since. Salah endeavored to replace Bouteflika and his allies while keeping the essential structure of power unchanged.

But huge crowds continued to flood the streets through much of 2019 to demand change to the leadership. Bouteflika resigned and many of his aides and allies were arrested on corruption charges earlier this year.

The protest movement, which has no formal leaders or organization, has been holding weekly rallies demanding that the army relinquish its traditional hold on power, which it has held since Algeria became independent from France in 1962.

Protesters have also been calling on Salah to resign, while some prominent figures in their movement applauded the military's decision not to violently crush demonstrations.

"The army hierarchy is unified and it will move on after Gaid Salah as it did before him," a retired general who asked not to be named told Reuters. "Algeria's army is a single bloc, not under the influence of one general but with consensus as its engine."

The funeral is expected to take place on Tuesday, a day on which Algerian students have been staging weekly protests for much of the year.

bk/msh (Reuters, AFP)

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