Algeria Sacks Ground Forces Chief in Army Overhaul


Algeria's commander of ground forces has been retired, the defense ministry said Wednesday, a day after confirmation of the air force chief's ouster as part of a sweeping overhaul of the military.

The armed forces chief of staff, Ahmed Gaid Salah, is to preside over a ceremony on Thursday at which Major General Said Chanegriha will take over as ground forces commander.

He will replace "Ahcene Tafer, who has been retired," the defense ministry said in a statement.

Tafer had served as ground forces chief since 2004, after having first held the post between 1994 and 2000. The 74-year-old survived an Islamist attack on his convoy in 2008.

The defence ministry's announcement was the first official confirmation of Tafer's dismissal, which like other high-level army sackings had been reported in Algerian media.

It came a day after the ministry confirmed that Algeria's air force chief, Abdelkader Lounes, had also been pushed into retirement.

A broad shake-up of the military hierarchy was initiated earlier this year by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who came to power in 1999 and under the constitution is supreme commander of the armed forces.

In early July, the commander of the national gendarmerie was sacked, along with the heads of three out of six military districts.

The powerful director general of Algeria's police force, Abdelghani Hamel, was dismissed by the president in late June. 

A string of other high-profile dismissals, including the air force chief of staff and the head of the air defense force, were reported by Ennahar TV but have not been confirmed by the government. 

At the start of September, army monthly El-Djeich said the military overhaul was part of a normal process of changes at the top.

The firing of top army figures, who are considered king-makers in Algeria, comes just eight months ahead of the country's presidential election.

There is widespread uncertainty over whether the ailing 81-year-old Bouteflika will seek a fifth term in office.

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