Algeria’s Bouteflika Dying as ISIS, AQIM are Poised to Move In
On April 29, 79-year-old Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika arrived in Geneva for two weeks of medical treatment. He then returned to Algiers without any announcement regarding his health.
But DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence sources report that the president, who has not been seen in public for two years, is dying, and the day-to-day affairs of the North African oil and gas producer are being run by his close family members. American and French intelligence sources familiar with the events in Algiers say that Bouteflika’s health is rapidly deteriorating, and most of the time he is unaware of what is happening around him.
Our sources report that both Washington and Paris would like his successor to be Algeria’s 77-year-old oil minister, Chakib Khelil, who worked for many years for the IMF and other Western international economic institutions. But Khelil is not a shoo-in for the position due to two reasons:
1. Bouteflika (or perhaps his close aides) has refused to sign a presidential order appointing Khelil as his successor.
2. It is not clear whether such an appointment would be backed by military top brass, especially the senior commanders of Algeria’s military intelligence branch, the DRS, which holds most positions of power in the country.
In September 2015, Bouteflika sacked the powerful chief of the DRS, Mohamed Mediene, in an effort to curb his influence on local politics, and replaced him with Gen. Athmane Tartag, the president’s former security advisor.
The Algerian president became ill immediately after removing Mediene, creating a situation in which nobody in Algiers or elsewhere was sure if the spy chief and the generals loyal to him were in fact out, or whether they were still pulling the strings.
DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence and counterterrorism sources say that this kind of fluid political situations in Muslim countries, especially in the Middle East and North Africa, make it possible for elements of the military and other security forces which maintain contacts with ISIS or Al Qaeda to try to solicit their support or assistance in seizing power or promoting their political plans.
Two examples of this are the secret understandings that the Turkish and Syrian intelligence services have with ISIS to promote issues of major importance to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad, such as the problem of migrants streaming to Europe.
Western analysts believe that several Algerian generals, including ones from the DRS, are in contact with figures from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which seeks to topple the government and establish an Islamic state.
Our sources in Washington and Paris report that during the last two weeks French President Francois Hollande sent several urgent messages to US President Barack Obama about Algeria:
1. If Bouteflika suddenly dies, several cities or entire parts of Algeria may fall into the hands of AQIM or ISIS. Hollande warned that the entire Western military effort in Tunisia and Libya would then collapse, and the terrorist groups would have territorial continuity from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic coast.
2. Such a situation would lead to a wave of millions of Algerian refugees to Europe, especially France where many of them have close or extended families. Hollande said the wave would be much bigger than the one from Turkey and transform France into a nation with 20 million Muslims, endangering France’s national security and character.