Algerian police have arrested former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika‘s youngest brother alongside two former intelligence chiefs, according to local media.
Said Bouteflika, General Bachir Athmane Tartag and General Mohamed Mediene were taken into custody for questioning on Saturday, the private Ennahar TV reported.
The younger Bouteflika, who served as adviser to the president for more than a decade, is seen by many as having taken de facto control of the North African state, after his brother suffered a crippling stroke in 2013.
Massive ongoing protests calling for a radical change pushed the ailing president to resign on April 2, but demonstrators continue to demand the removal of all those linked to the former administration.
Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaid Salah, a former associate of President Bouteflika, came to the fore in late March after he broke ranks with the ailing leader, and called on him to step down. The president resigned five days later.
The 79-year-old Gaid Salah has since sought to win the confidence of demonstrators by vowing to prosecute members of the old guard suspected of corruption.
But the arrest of more than half a dozen prominent businessmen seen as close to the presidential “clan” has largely failed to appease protesters, who continue to take to the streets demanding a complete overhaul of the political system.
On Friday, during the eleventh straight week of demonstrations, some protesters called on Gaid Salah to resign. They held up banners accusing him of failing to take on senior figures in the Bouteflika government, including the president’s brother.
Others held placards reading “No to military rule”.
North Africa analyst Rochdi Alloui said that, in prosecuting members of the ruling elite, Gaid Salah was hoping to set himself further apart from Bouteflika’s immediate entourage and signal both his readiness and credibility to negotiate a transition with the opposition.
“An important question that we should ask is what these arrests mean to the popular movement,” Alloui said.
“Honestly, it offers an opening for negotiations between Gaid Salah and some of the leaders in the movement.”
Gaid Salah had previously criticised the younger Bouteflika, without ever citing him, instead describing the 61-year-old as the head of the “gang” that was running the country.