These developments described in Algeria Politics & Security – 11.01.22 were less than 24-hour old and were still developing as went to press.

It is not yet a coup d’état but the start of what could become a serious division within the army — largely between the country’s East and West — which will destabilise the regime for a long time to come.

The perpetrator of this move against the Army Chief of Staff, General Saïd Chengriha, is the late General Ahmed Gaïd Salah’s private secretary, Chief Warrant Officer Guermit Bounouira. He fled Algeria in February 2020 with many of Gaïd Salah’s secret files, which held incriminating evidence against Chengriha and many other senior army personnel. Bounouira was extradited back from Turkey in July 2020 and has since been in Blida’s’ military prison where he faces a likely death sentence.

Current Army Chief of Staff General Saïd Chengriha (L) and General Gaïd Salah’s private secretary Guermit Bounouira (R)

From his high security prison cell, however, Bounouira has been able to make and then release onto the Internet and the social networks a series of 20 damning video recordings against Chengriha. These are now in the hands of the regime’s main opponent, the Rachad movement, and its prime analyst, Mohamed Larbi Zitout. 

Bounouira accuses Chengriha of having accumulated a colossal fortune through drug trafficking and arms smuggling and of having ensured the protection of the smuggling routes on the Algerian-Moroccan border. He also revealed details on Chengriha’s alleged arms trafficking with Libya and fuel trafficking in the Tamanrasset region. He claims that these criminal activities by Chengriha, who was then head of the Army Land Forces, were about to lead to a military indictment which would almost certainly have ended his career. Instead, however, Gaïd Salah suddenly died in December 2019 which has led to renewed speculation as to whether he was poisoned. 

Much more information is yet to be published on social media. We believe it will include: a full list of all the generals involved in this criminality and details of the army’s control of this business including the use of Algeria’s ports to smuggle cocaine from South America to Europe. 

The two big questions are: who enabled Bounouira to make these extraordinary revelations and, what will be their implication for Chengriha, the Presidency and the regime as a whole?

Bounouira was being held in the country’s most secure prison block. Commonly known as The Pavilion of Traitors or Pavilion No.5 this high-security block is, amongst others, known to contain:

  • General Bouazza Ouassini – former head of the Direction générale de la sécurité intérieure, DGSI) internal security; 
  • Major-General Mohamed Bouzit (a.k.a. Youcef) – the former head of the foreign intelligence service; 
  • Major General Abdelhamid Ghriss – the former secretary-general of the Ministry of National Defence; and 
  • General Othmane Belmiloud (a.k.a. Kamel Kanich), the former head of the Direction Centrale de la Sécurité de l’Armée (DCSA); 

The obvious question is who is trying to oust Chengriha, along with many of his senior staff, and for what purpose? The immediate and most obvious answer might be ‘the deep state’ which is a euphemism for the clan headed by: former defence minister Khaled Nezzar; former DRS head Mohamed ‘Toufik’ Mediène, and former DCSA head M’henna Djebbar. At this stage, however, that might seem a little too obvious and simplistic.

As we go to press, we heard from a 100% reliable source — who has been closely involved with these documents and disclosures since Bounouira was in Turkey between February-July 2020 — that the people behind this move are not the Nezzar-Mediène clan. Instead it is the supporters of the late General Gaïd Salah and, in particular, Bounouira himself and Bouazza Ouassini who is also in prison with him. We will explain more on their motives in next week’s issue.

They want revenge against Chengriha, partly to rectify their own imprisonment, but also because they are accusing him of ‘kidnapping’ for the East. In the list of names which Bounouira is publishing — which we have now seen and will explain more about in next week’s issue as well as about the East-West division — the majority are about 60 generals from eastern Algeria and mostly of Chaouia identity. 

Currently, the immediate implications are that Chengriha has lost all authority and will almost certainly be replaced. The great danger is that this division within the army could turn into something akin to civil war although this is unlikely because other forces are likely to step in.

In short — although we understand that the Nezzar-Mediène clan had nothing to do with Bounouira’s motives — they will be the ultimate beneficiaries. This is because they have the knowledge and intelligence access to all that has been going on. Many of their supporters — who were mostly colonels in the 1990s but more latterly generals — fled to Spain after Gaïd Salah’s putsch against Mediène in 2015. They are likely to return and take back many of the top positions in the military and security services. 

The possible timing in this scenario is, however, very uncertain. We understand that as we go to press, Blida — and especially the military court, prison and surrounding complex — is under siege by forces from the gendarmerie. Key sources close to the situation are describing the situation as an ‘earthquake’, which will destabilise the regime for a long time to come, with the distinct possibility of the army becoming divided, more or less along its East-West axis. 

This excerpt is taken from Algeria Politics & Security, our weekly intelligence report on Algeria. Click here to receive a free sample copy.