Monday, 20 February 2012

Algeria: Death of General Mohamed Lamari

The former Head of the army and the General Staff, General Mohamed Lamari, died on Monday 12 February aged 72. According to his brother, who was quoted by the Ministry of Defence, Lamari died after being rushed to a hospital in his home town Biskra following a heart attack. He was buried in Algiers on Tuesday.

Lamari is regarded by many Algerians as the Algerian General with 'most blood on his hands'. He was one of the inner circle of Generals who overthrew the government in January 1992 to forestall the electoral victory of the Front Islamique du Salut (FIS). The latter FIS had won a substantial majority of the seats in the first round of voting in December and needed only a few more in the second round in January to take power.

President Mohamed Boudiaf, who was assassinated in June 1992 on the orders of the ruling Generals, including Lamari, issued an order in March 1992 that Lamari should be but the order was never carried out.

Lamari was a leader of the military's so-called 'eradicators' faction which opposed any reconciliation with the rebels. In 1993 he was appointed chief of the staff of the army. He created a specialist 'anti-terrorism' force of 15,000 whose task was to hunt down and kill Islamist rebels. An estimated 200,000 Algerians were killed during this 'dirty war' of whom at half were at the hands of the security forces.

Lamari began his military career as an officer of the French army having been trained at the Saumur cavalry school. He joined the ALN in Morocco a few months before Algerian Independence in 1962 and he then trained in Moscow at the Soviet Union's military academy.

Lamari 'retired' in 2004, officially for reasons of ill-health but it was generally known that he was dismissed by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika who replaced him with by the current Chief of Staff, General Salah Ahmed Gaïd.

Mystery has always surrounded Lamari's unexpected 'retirement' in 2004. The reason for his dismissal was a deal between Bouteflika and DRS Chief, General Mohamed Mediène. Behind the deal lay Mediène's desire to have Lamari removed from office so that he would become Algeria's undisputed 'strong man'. He therefore offered Bouteflika a deal whereby he arranged for the electoral rug to be pulled from under the feet of Ali Benflis, who was Bouteflika's main rival in the 2004 presidential election, resulting in Bouteflika capturing 85 per cent of the official vote and Benflis 6.4 per cent. In delivering this service, Mediène also persuaded Bouteflika that the best way to give Algeria and its presidency a new image after the 'dirty war' of the 1990s was for Bouteflika to get rid of the most hated general of that time. Hence Lamari's 'retirement'.

For more news and expert analysis about Algeria, please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.

© 2012 Menas Associates

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