Police in Algeria are reported to have arrested Said Bouteflika, the younger brother of Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the former president who was forced by the army to step down last month after weeks of protests against his rule. The arrest of Mr Bouteflika and two former intelligence chiefs, Mohamed Mediene and Bachir Athmane Tartag, was reported on Saturday by the private Ennahar television, which is usually well-informed on security issues. Said Bouteflika, who served as presidential adviser, wielded great power by virtue of his position as gatekeeper to his ailing brother, who suffered a stroke in 2013 which paralysed him and impaired his ability to speak. He was seen as the linchpin of an opaque clique of politicians and business leaders who influenced decision-making at the top of the gas-exporting north African country. There was speculation that he wanted to succeed his brother as president. His arrest appears to be part of a campaign by Ahmed Gaid Salah, the army chief of staff, to try to appease protesters who continue to press for an overhaul of the political system even after the resignation of the former president. Protests were sparked in February by the decision of the former president to seek a fifth term in office despite his poor state of health. Angry Algerians saw it as a sign that Mr Bouteflika’s entourage wanted to continue to govern in his name.
At least four businessmen close to the former president were arrested last month in what was seen as an anti-corruption drive aimed at placating public anger. Gen Salah also suggested last month that Said Bouteflika and Gen Mediene, a retired intelligence chief, were part of a conspiracy to subvert the constitution and prevent the army from resolving the crisis in Algeria. There had been reports in the Algerian press, just before Gen Salah forced Mr Bouteflika to resign, of a meeting between Gen Mediene and Said Bouteflika to discuss arrangements for a transition. Algerian analysts said at the time that Gen Salah saw the meeting and the return on the scene of Gen Mediene, a former rival, as a plot against him. The former intelligence chief who served for 25 years until he retired in 2015 was once seen as the most powerful man in the country or “the God of Algeria” as he reportedly described himself on one occasion. He was forced into retirement after a major reorganisation of the intelligence service in the course of a lengthy power struggle pitting him against the former president backed by Gen Salah.