Algerian army chief vows to secure protest-hit country

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Algeria’s army chief on Tuesday pledged to guarantee the country’s security following mass demonstrations against ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term in office.

General Ahmed Gaid Salah also criticized those who he said want to return to the “painful years” of the 1992-2002 civil war “during which the Algerian people experienced all forms of suffering and paid a heavy price.”

The armed forces chief of staff said in a speech at a military academy outside Algiers that the country’s success “in eradicating terrorism... has displeased some parties who are upset to see Algeria stable and safe.”

The people will continue to enjoy “security and stability” of which the army “will remain the guarantor”, the general, who is close to Bouteflika and considered one of Algeria’s most powerful figures, said according to an official transcript.

The army chief, who is deputy defence minister, urged Algerians to be ready to “erect a rampart against anything that could expose Algeria to unpredictable threats”.

Protests have seen tens of thousands of people take to the streets of the North African country since last month demanding the 82-year-old president resign.

Thousands of students marched in the capital and other cities on Tuesday in the latest display of public anger.

Bouteflika, who suffered a stroke in 2013 and is rarely seen in public, promised on Sunday that if he wins elections in April he will organise a “national conference” to set a date for further polls which he would not contest.

His pledge, made in a letter read out on state television, has been dismissed as an insult by Algerians weary of his two-decade-old rule.

Bouteflika has been in Switzerland since February 24 for what the presidency has described as “routine medical tests”.

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