Ahmed Gaid Salah: Thousands gather for army chief's funeral

Gaed Salah was country's de facto leader after Bouteflika stepped down as president in April following protests.

    Thousands of Algerians gathered for the funeral procession of the country's powerful army chief [Ramzi Boudina/Reuters]
    Thousands of Algerians gathered for the funeral procession of the country's powerful army chief [Ramzi Boudina/Reuters]

    The funeral of Algeria's powerful army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah got under way on Wednesday as his remains arrived at the People's Palace, images broadcast by state TV showed. 

    Thousands of Algerians gathered for the funeral procession of the country's powerful army chief, who fought for independence from France as a young man and this year became the country's de facto leader.

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    The wooden coffin containing the body of Gaid Salah, who died of a heart attack on Monday aged 79, was covered in a national flag and carried by officers.

    The funeral procession converged on the palace, which was built in the 18th century for Ottoman governors.

    Born on January 13, 1940 in the eastern Batna province, Gaid Salah participated in the Algerian struggle against the French colonial rule between November 1, 1954 and March 19, 1962.

    After Algeria's independence, he pursued his career in the army, moving up to the rank of major general in 1993. In 1994, he was appointed as commander of the army's ground forces during Algeria's civil war.

    After the 2004 presidential election, Gaid Salah was made the army's chief of staff.

    Gaid Salah became the country's de facto strongman after longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika was forced to step down in the face of huge street protests in April.

    Interim military chief of staff Said Chengriha and President Abdelmadjid Tebboune were among those who attended the funeral.

    Tebboune won a December 12 presidential election with 58.1 percent of the vote, but the poll was dismissed by protesters as a ploy by Gaid Salah and other establishment figures to consolidate power.

    After Tebboune was elected president, he brought Gaid Salah onto the stage where he was sworn in before embracing him and presenting him with an order of merit.

    Gaid Salah's body will be driven through the centre of Algiers and buried in the main graveyard after Wednesday's noon prayer.

    SOURCE: News agencies