Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on Tuesday sacked the country’s police chief, Abdelghani Hamel, until now seen as a likely successor to the head of state.
Bouteflika “today signed two decrees, the first putting an end to the duties of Abdelghani Hamel, as director general of national security forces (DGSN), and the second on the nomination of Mustapha el-Habiri as the head of the DGSN,” the president’s office said in a statement published by APS news agency.
The unexpected decision comes against the backdrop of a cocaine trafficking scandal which has tarnished numerous officials including magistrates.
The DGSN has denied media reports of Hamel’s personal chauffeur being embroiled in the affair, instead pointing the finger at “a driver from the management’s fleet”.
Hamel has gained influence in recent years as Algeria’s police chief and was seen as a possible contender for Algeria’s presidency.
Originally trained as a computer engineer, he joined Algeria’s gendarmerie — a police force that is part of the army — and rose through the ranks to become general and head of the Republican Guard in 2008.
Two years later he was named head of the national security service, after his predecessor was shot dead during a row with a subordinate in his office.