Algeria’s powerful military chief Gen. Ahmed Gaid Salah died Monday morning in the military hospital of Algiers after a heart attack, according to state radio and state news agency APS. He was 79 or 80 years old.
He was present at the inauguration of the country’s new president just four days ago. He had suffered heart problems in the past, according to Algerian media reports, but his death came a shock to most Algerians.
Algeria’s army plays a central role in decision-making in this gas-rich country that is a key ally to Western powers in fighting Islamic extremism.
Gen. Salah was seen as the main power player in Algeria, especially since protesters with his backing pushed out the country’s longtime president in April.
New President Abdelmadjid Tebboune declared an exceptional full week of mourning, an indication of the military chief’s importance.
Gen. Salah is being replaced on a temporary basis by another high-ranking general, Said Chengriha, according to state radio.
The respected military leader served as vice-minister of defense in the government. His decision to back protesters demanding the resignation of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika earlier this year was pivotal. He was also behind the decision to hold new elections earlier this month.
However protesters later turned against him, demanding instead a wholesale makeover of Algeria’s political structure. (Source: Mainichi Japan)