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Algeria's president takes control of spy services

Abdelaziz Bouteflika signed secret degree to create new leadership staffed by loyalists and reporting directly to the presidency
Bouteflika established the DSS under a secret decree, according to a government newspaper (AFP)

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has taken control of Algeria's security and intelligence services by secretly forming a new leadership for the entire sector, newspapers have reported.

The reports on Monday said an agency, known by the acronym DSS, had been set up to replace the powerful DRS intelligence agency, which is being dissolved.

Retired general Athman Tartag, an ex-security adviser to the president, is to head the DSS, the reports said.

Algeria's ailing 78-year-old leader thus places the entire security services under his direct control, with Tartag reporting back to him on the activities of all the country's intelligence services.

Tartag was named in September as successor to longtime DRS chief General Mohamed Mediene - better known as General Toufik.

Bouteflika has established the DSS under a decree which has not been made public, according to the government newspaper El-Messa.

There was no official confirmation of the reports.

Since his election to a fourth term in April 2014, Bouteflika and his aides have pushed through major changes in Algeria's shadowy intelligence and security apparatus.

In November, former counterterrorism chief Abdelkader Ait-Ouarabi, better known as General Hassan, was sentenced to five years in jail on charges of destroying documents and disobeying military orders.

Bouteflika's public engagements have become rare and he appears on local television only when foreign dignitaries visit.

Opponents, including his rival in the 2014 presidential polls, Ali Benflis, have spoken of a "power vacuum" in Algeria.

In December, Bouteflika underwent two days of medical tests at a cardiology unit in France. After a stroke in 2013, Bouteflika spent 88 days in Paris.

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