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Algiers (AFP) Feb 03, 2014
The head of Algeria's ruling party, a vocal supporter of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika seeking a fourth term in April elections, called on the powerful intelligence chief to resign in an interview published Monday.
General Mohamed "Tewfik" Mediene, the long-time leader of the DRS military intelligence agency, is considered a towering force in Algeria, whose secretive military elite has dominated the country's political scene since independence.
Bouteflika reportedly took decisive steps to roll back their pervasive influence last year by curbing the prerogatives of the DRS, which analysts said strengthened the president's hand in his long-running power struggle with the military, ahead of the upcoming elections.
But public criticism by senior Algerian officials of the man at the head of the intelligence agency since 1990 is very rare.
"If we examine the achievements of internal security in certain important cases, we can see that the agency's failures have multiplied," Amar Saidani, secretary general of Bouteflika's National Liberation Front (FLN), told independent news website Tout sur l'Algerie.
"In my opinion, Tewfik should have resigned after these failures," added Saidani, using the name by which General Mediene is commonly known in Algeria.
Notable security failures cited by the FLN leader included the bloody hostage raid on a desert gas plant in January 2013, an attempt on Bouteflika's life in September 2007 and a deadly attack on the UN headquarters in Algiers later that year.
"The presence of internal security in every institution gives the impression that power in Algeria is not in civilian hands," Saidani said.
"Instead of managing the country's security, this department (the DRS) interferes with the activities of political parties, the judiciary and the press," he added.
Saidani was controversially elected FLN secretary general in August last year, amid strong opposition from some within the ruling party, just a month before Bouteflika was reportedly curtailed the powers of the DRS.
Three of the agency's key units -- the army communications bureau, its central security office and its judicial police force -- where placed under the control of General Ahmed Gaid Salah, a close Bouteflika ally, according to local press reports that have not been denied.
Referring to damaging accusations and corruption scandals that have implicated members of Bouteflika's inner circle in recent years, notably former energy minister Chakib Khelil, Saidani said the DRS "never stops making up stories about those close to the president."
Contacted by AFP, a member of the FLN's political office refused to comment on the party leader's remarks.
Saidani announced in November that Bouteflika, 76, was the FLN's designated candidate in the upcoming presidential polls, despite many in Algeria rejecting the idea given the president's age and fragile health.
Bouteflika has not been seen or heard in public since suffering a mini-stroke last year, and has yet to say whether he will contest the election.
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