Former Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika dies

Abdelaziz Bouteflika dies, Algeria

Former Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has died aged 84, state television announced Friday.

Mr Bouteflika fought for independence from France, reconciled his conflict-ravaged nation and was then ousted amid pro-democracy protests in 2019 after two decades in power.

Algeria’s current president Abdelmadjid Tebboune later declared a three-day period of mourning starting Saturday for Mr Bouteflika.

Flags are to fly at half-staff during the mourning period, the president’s office said. The honours reflect Mr Bouteflika’s role in Algeria’s brutal seven-year war for independence from France that ended in 1962. Those who fought are considered martyrs today.

Mr Bouteflika had suffered a stroke in 2013 that badly weakened him. Concerns about his state of health, kept secret from the Algerian public, helped feed public frustration with his 20-year, corruption-tarnished rule. Mass public protests by the Hirak movement led to his departure.

An astute political chameleon, Mr Bouteflika had been known as a wily survivor ever since he fought for independence from colonial ruler France in the 1950s and 1960s.

He stood up to Henry Kissinger as Algeria’s long-serving foreign minister, successfully negotiated with the terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal to free oil ministers taken hostage in a 1975 attack on OPEC headquarters, and helped reconcile Algerian citizens with each other after a decade of civil war between radical Muslim militants and Algeria’s security forces.

“I’m a non-conformist politician. I’m a revolutionary,” Mr Bouteflika told The Associated Press on the eve of his first presidential victory in 1999, after a campaign tarnished by fraud charges that drove his six rivals to pull out of the vote.

The former president’s lawyer, Salim Salim Hadjouti, said Mr Bouteflika was being laid to rest in an official ceremony at El Alia cemetery, in the section where martyrs of the revolution for independence are buried.

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