By Abdel Rizaq bin Abdullah
In a landmark move, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has ordered the dissolution of the country’s army-linked intelligence agency, which will be replaced by a "Directorate for Security Affairs" that will report directly to him, local media reported on Sunday.
According to the private Al-Hiwar newspaper, Bouteflika -- along with Algeria’s national defense minister and the supreme commander of the armed forces -- signed a decree on Friday formally dissolving the intelligence agency and replacing it with the new
security affairs directorate.
The new agency, the paper reported, which will be led by Gen. Othman Tartag, a known ally of Bouteflika’s, "shall be fully independent of the Ministry of Defense and will be under the direct and exclusive guardianship of the president of the Republic".
The presidency, for its part, has yet to comment on the move.
Othman Tartag was appointed head of Algeria’s now-defunct Intelligence Agency last September, replacing long-serving intelligence czar Mohammed Medien who had spent 25 years in the post.
A shadowy figure, Medien had remained out of the public eye, despite his enormous behind-the-scenes influence on Algeria’s state apparatus.
According to Algerian political observers, Medien was the most influential figure in the country over the past two decades, with analysts describing him as the "maker of presidents" due to the decisive role he played in bringing them to power.
Medien never appeared in the media or at official events; no photo of him was published until after he was forced into retirement by Bouteflika late last year.
Tartag has been a leading member of the intelligence service -- and an aide to Medien -- since the 1990s.