Said Bouteflika has been arrested

Said Bouteflika, the powerful brother of deposed Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, along with two former intelligence chiefs, a security source in Algiers has confirmed.

General Mohamed Mediene, known as Toufik, who headed the secret service for 25 years and former intelligence coordinator Athmane Tartag were the two spy chiefs arrested, according to the source who spoke on the condition of retaining anonymity. No reason for the arrests was given.

There has been no official comment from Algeria’s police or army.

Said Bouteflika was seen as the guiding hand behind the rule of his ailing brother Abdelaziz, who resigned on in April following pressure from the military in the face of huge street protests.The president’s brother has frequently been cited as a likely successor as head of state. He had exerted increasing influence behind the scenes, as the former president was rarely seen in public after a stroke in 2013.

Mediene headed the all-powerful DRS intelligence agency, until Bouteflika fired him and dismantled the institution in 2016. Meanwhile, Algeria’s army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah has in recent weeks accused Mediene of being involved in a plot against Algeria.

In mid-April he gave what he called “a final warning” to the former DRS chief who he accused of conspiring to “hinder solutions to ending the crisis” in the protest-hit country.

Salah had helped Abdelaziz Bouteflika neuter the DRS, which was long considered a “state within a state”.

Tartag — described by Algerian media as close to the former president’s brother — was fired just after Bouteflika’s resignation.

Salah has spoken of a meeting attended by “known individuals, the identity of whom will be revealed at the right time, that sought to lead a virulent media campaign across various media and on social networks against the army.”

According to Algerian media, this meeting was attended by Mediene, Tartag and Said Bouteflika.

Mediene said “I have never met, whether it be a single time, this person from the security forces who was cited as taking part in this pseudo-meeting, since I left my position” heading the DRS.

Algeria’s former defence minister Khaled Nezzar meanwhile has recently claimed that Said Bouteflika wanted to declare a state of emergency and had considered firing Salah, ahead of the president’s resignation.

Demonstrations are ongoing in the North African country, with people pouring onto the streets for the 11th consecutive week on Friday, to demand the resignation of regime insiders and the establishment of transitional institutions.

This edited article first appeared in The Arab Weekly.