The privately-owned Algerian outlet Ennahar TV announced the death of army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah on Monday. Salah, who was 79, was pivotal in forcing the resignation of former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika in April earlier this year.
Algeria’s powerful army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah has died, the private Ennahar television station reported on Monday, at a time of bitter political divisions over the military’s dominant role in the major energy exporter.
Gaid Salah died on Monday morning in the military hospital in Algiers after a heart attack, reported state radio and state news agency APS.
General Gaid Salah, 79, became the nation’s most powerful figure following the resignation of Algeria’s last president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in April. He was also reportedly close to the country’s new leader, Abdelmadjid Tebboune.
Africa’s largest country has been riven by mass protests since February, demanding a wholesale change in the ruling elite, including that the army step back from politics.
Gaid 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.
He was present at the inauguration of the country’s new president only four days ago. He had suffered heart problems in the past, Algerian media reported, but his death came a shock to most Algerians.
Mr Tebboune declared an exceptional full week of mourning, an indication of the military chief’s importance.
Gaid Salah is being replaced temporarily by another high-ranking general, Said Chengriha, state radio reported.
Gaid Salah also served as vice-minister of defence in the government. His decision to back protesters demanding the resignation of Mr Bouteflika earlier this year was pivotal. He was also behind the decision to hold new elections earlier this month.
But protesters later turned against Gaid Salah, demanding instead a wholesale makeover of Algeria’s political structure.