Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika
has decided to resign after weeks of mass protests, state media report.
The 82-year-old, who has been in
power for 20 years, had already dropped plans to seek a fifth term as
opposition to his rule grew.
The Algerian army had called for the
president to be declared incapable of carrying out his duties.
Abdelaziz Bouteflika suffered a
stroke six years ago and has rarely appeared in public since.
Car horns could be heard in the
streets of the capital, Algiers, as hundreds celebrated the announcement.
People waved Algeria’s national flags
News of the resignation came in a statement carried on state news agency
The statement read: “The
president of the republic, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, has officially notified the
president of the constitutional council of his decision to end his mandate as
president of the republic.”
State TV then reported that this
would be with immediate effect.
According to the constitution, the Senate speaker should take over as
interim president until fresh elections are held. The chairman of the upper
house of parliament, Abdelkader Bensalah, is expected to become caretaker
president for three months until elections.
Pressure had been building since
February, when the first demonstrations were sparked by President Bouteflika’s
announcement that he would be standing for a fifth term.
Tens of thousands protested across
the country on March 1. Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s promise not to serve out a fifth
term if re-elected, along with a change of prime minister, failed to quell the
Leaders of the protests also rejected President Bouteflika’s offer this week
that he would go by the end of his current term – April 28 – as not quick
It seems the powerful military agreed. Its chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Gaed Salah,
said on April 2: “There is no more
room to waste time.”
The protesters have also called for the whole political system, in which the
military plays a significant role, to be overhauled.
Many of the demonstrators are young and say they want a new system of
There were accusations that Abdelaziz Bouteflika was being used as a front
by “le pouvoir” – a group of businessmen, politicians and military
officials – to retain their power.
Elections originally scheduled for April 18 were postponed and the governing
National Liberation Front (FLN) vowed to organize a national conference on
The FLN has ruled Algeria since 1962, when the country won independence from
France after seven years of conflict.
Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who came to power in 1999, strengthened his grip after a bloody civil war against Islamist insurgents which left 150,000 dead.
Algerian terrorist Mokhtar Belmokhtar has been killed in a US air strike in Libya, officials say.
Mokhtar Belmokhtar, 43, and other fighters were killed in the raid by aircraft in the eastern city of Ajdabiya, a statement from Libya’s government said.
The US has confirmed Mokhtar Belmokhtar was targeted but did not say he had died.
The Pentagon described the strike as successful and that officials were still assessing its results.
It would “provide more details as appropriate” said spokesman Colonel Steve Warren.
There have been incorrect reports of Mokhtar Belmokhtar’s death in the past.
Born in Algeria, Mokhtar Belmokhtar was a former senior figure in al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), but left to form his own militia.
Mokhtar Belmokhtar gained notoriety with the attack on the In Amenas gas plant in Algeria in 2013, when about 800 people were taken hostage and 40 killed, most of them foreigners, including three Americans.
The US has filed terror charges against him and officials said they believed he remained a threat to Western interests.
Col. Steve Warren said: “Belmokhtar has a long history of leading terrorist activities as a member of AQIM, is the operational leader of the al-Qaeda-associated al-Murabitoun organization in north-west Africa, and maintains his personal allegiance to al-Qaeda.”
The Libyan government said the strike came after consultation with the US. Their statement said it resulted in the death of the “terrorist Belmokhtar”.
Libya has been in chaos since the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Its internationally recognized parliament is operating in exile in the eastern port of Tobruk.
A rival parliament, the Islamist-dominated General National Congress, is nearly 600 miles to the west in Tripoli.
Rival militia has been battling to fill the power vacuum, with Islamic State militants battling other Islamists in the east.
Al passengers and crew members on board of Air Algerie flight AH5017 died after the aircraft crashed in Mali, says the French President, Francois Hollande.
Francois Hollande said one flight data recorder had been recovered, after French troops reached the crash site near Mali’s border with Burkina Faso.
Air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane early on Thursday after pilots reported severe storms.
The 116 passengers on the Air Algerie flight included 51 French citizens.
The McDonnell Douglas MD-83 had been chartered from Spanish airline, Swiftair. It was flying from Burkina Faso’s capital, Ougadougou, to Algiers.
There are no survivors from the Air Algerie AH5017 passenger jet that crashed in Mali
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told French radio network RTL that “the aircraft was destroyed at the moment it crashed”.
“We think the aircraft crashed for reasons linked to the weather conditions, although no theory can be excluded at this point,” he said.
A team of 100 French soldiers, with 30 vehicles, had travelled to the crash site on Friday, a French defense ministry official said.
The team was part of a force that was deployed to Mali last year to combat an insurgency backed by al-Qaeda.
“French soldiers who are on the ground have started the first investigations,” Francois Hollande said on Friday.
“Sadly there are no survivors.”
Contact with Flight AH 5017 was lost about 50 minutes after take-off from Ouagadougou early on Thursday morning, Air Algerie said.
The pilot had contacted Niger’s control tower in Niamey at around 01:30 GMT to change course because of a sandstorm, officials say.
Burkina Faso authorities said the passenger list comprised 27 people from Burkina Faso, 51 French, eight Lebanese, six Algerians, two from Luxembourg, five Canadians, four Germans, one Cameroonian, one Belgian, one Egyptian, one Ukrainian, one Swiss, one Nigerian and one Malian.
The six crew members are Spanish, according to the Spanish pilots’ union.
The wreck of Air Algerie plane that disappeared with 116 people on board on a flight from Burkina Faso to Algiers has been found in Mali, officials say.
The Burkina Faso army said Air Algerie flight AH 5017 had crashed about 30 miles from the Burkinabe border.
The wreckage has been found south of the Malian town of Gao.
Air Algerie flight AH 5017 had crashed about 30 miles from the Burkinabe border
The searchers mission is complicated by the vast scale and daunting terrain of Mali. The area where the flight is suspected to have crashed is a sparsely inhabited region of scrubland and desert dunes stretching to the foothills of the Adrar des Ifoghas mountains. Much of it lies in the hands of Tuareg separatist rebels, who rose up against the government in early 2012, triggering an Islamist revolt that briefly seized control of northern Mali.
The Malian government has only a weak presence in the region and relies on French and U.N. peacekeepers for aircraft and logistical support.
Air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane early on Thursday after pilots reported severe storms.
The passengers included 51 French citizens.
The McDonnell Douglas MD-83 had been chartered from Spanish airline Swiftair.
Air Algerie flight AH 5017 crashed on July 24 en route from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso to Algiers with 110 passengers on board, an Algerian aviation official said.
There were few clear indications of what might happened to the aircraft, or whether there were casualties, but Burkino Faso Transport Minister Jean Bertin Ouedrago said it asked to change route at 01:38 GMT because of a storm in the area.
“I can confirm that it has crashed,” the Algerian official told Reuters, declining to be identified or give any details about what had happened to the aircraft on its way north.
Almost half of the passengers were French citizens, an airline official said.
“Currently we have no news of flight AH5017. Thank you”
Air Algerie flight AH 5017 crashed on July 24 en route from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso to Algiers with 110 passengers on board
Two French fighter jets based in the region have been dispatched to try to locate the airliner along its probable route, a French army spokesman said. Niger security sources said planes were flying over the border region with Mali to search for the flight.
Algeria’s state news agency APS said authorities lost contact with flight AH 5017 an hour after it took off from Burkina Faso, but other officials gave differing accounts of the times of contact, adding to confusion about the plane’s fate.
Swiftair, the private Spanish company that owns the plane, confirmed it had lost contact with the MD-83 operated by Air Algerie, which it said was carrying 110 passengers and six crew.
A diplomat in the Malian capital Bamako said that the north of the country – which lies on the plane’s likely flight path – was struck by a powerful sandstorm overnight.
An Air Algerie representative in Burkina Faso, Kara Terki, told a news conference that all the passengers on the plane were in transit, either for Europe, the Middle East or Canada.
Kara Terki said the passenger list included: 50 French, 24 Burkinabe, eight Lebanese, four Algerians, two from Luxembourg, one Belgian, one Swiss, one Nigerian, one Cameroonian, one Ukrainian and one Romanian.
Lebanese officials said there were at least 10 Lebanese citizens on the flight.
A spokeswoman for SEPLA, Spain’s pilots union, said the six crew were from Spain. She could not give any further details.
Five suspected members of the Islamist group which held foreign and local workers hostage at In Amenas gas plant in Algeria have been arrested, reports say.
The reports came a day after the Algerian authorities said all 32 hostage-takers had been killed at the In Amenas gas installation.
At least 25 bodies were found at the complex on Sunday, reports say.
It is unclear whether they were captors or captives. Officials say a definitive death toll will be released later.
On Saturday officials said least 23 staff at the facility had died during the four-day siege, with some Western workers still unaccounted for.
The siege was ended in a raid by troops on Saturday.
Officials said the army launched its assault after Islamist militants began killing foreign hostages.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama have blamed “terrorists” for the hostages’ deaths.
Five suspected members of the Islamist group which held foreign and local workers hostage at In Amenas gas plant in Algeria have been arrested
And on Sunday French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian described the hostage-taking as an “act of war”.
“What strikes me the most is that we’re saying <<hostage-taking>> but when there are so many people concerned, I think this is an act of war,” he told French TV.
“Five terrorists were found still alive this morning,” said the private Ennahar TV channel, quoted by AFP news agency.
The agency said residents of the nearby town of In Amenas were staying indoors, amid rumors that the army operation to end the siege was not over.
Algerian Communications Minister Mohammed Said said earlier that the militants were from six different countries, “nationals of Arab and African countries, and of non-African countries”.
Mohammed Said added that a final death toll would be released in the coming hours.
Mauritanian website Sahara Media says Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the suspected organizer of the siege, has claimed responsibility for it in a video message.
The website said the video – recorded on January 17 while the siege was still going on but not posted on the website – showed the militant leader saying he was prepared to negotiate with Western and Algerian leaders if operations against Islamists in Mali were stopped.
Three Britons are confirmed dead, and a further three are missing, feared dead.
UK officials were “working hard” to locate the missing, said Foreign Secretary William Hague.
“Everything seems to indicate” that a Colombian citizen resident in the UK is among the dead, the Colombian president has said.
But he added that information about Carlos Estrada, who worked for BP, was “not 100%”.
Japanese officials said they had no confirmation of the fate of 10 nationals who remained unaccounted for, despite reports that nine had died.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yoshihide Suga said a government aircraft would be sent to bring home seven others who had survived.
Two Malaysians are unaccounted for, as are five Norwegians.
State news agency APS said 685 Algerian workers and 107 out of 132 foreigners working at the plant had been freed, citing interior ministry figures.
The nationalities of some of the hostages killed are still not known.
The crisis began on Wednesday when militants attacked two buses carrying foreign workers to the remote site in south-eastern Algeria. A Briton and an Algerian reportedly died in the incident.
The militants then took Algerians and expatriates hostage at the complex, which was quickly surrounded by the Algerian army.
A statement from the kidnappers said the assault on the gas plant was launched in retaliation for French intervention against Islamist groups in neighboring Mali.
However, France only decided last week to intervene militarily in Mali. Analysts say the assault on the gas facility was well-planned and would have required advance research, as well as possibly inside help.
The leader of the hostage-takers was a veteran fighter from Niger, named as Abdul Rahman al-Nigeri by the Mauritanian news agency ANI, which had been in contact with the militants.
About 650 hostages have been freed from militants at the In Amenas gas facility in Algeria, state media report, but about 60 foreigners are still being held.
State-run APS news agency said those freed at the In Amenas installation included 573 Algerians and more than half of 132 foreign workers.
The militants remained holed up at the site and the Algerian army wanted a “peaceful end” to the crisis, APS said.
At least four foreign workers died when troops moved in on Thursday.
A “comprehensive total” of the hostages still held was not available and some of them had taken refuge at various points around the site, a security source told APS.
The installation had been put out of action to avoid the risk of an explosion, the agency reported.
Meanwhile, BP said on Friday that hundreds of workers from international oil companies had been evacuated from Algeria on Thursday and that many more would follow.
On Friday morning, a spokesman for the group thought to be behind the attack told the Mauritanian ANI agency that it would carry out further operations.
He warned Algerians to “stay away from the installations of foreign companies as we will strike where it is least expected”.
Algeria has yet to give precise casualty figures from Thursday’s rescue attempt.
The state-run APS news agency cited local officials as saying two Britons and two Filipinos were killed. Two others, a Briton and an Algerian, died on Wednesday when the militants ambushed a bus that was taking foreign workers at the facility to the local airport.
A spokesman for the militants told the ANI agency that 35 hostages and 15 militants had been killed in Thursday’s operation. One Algerian official said the figures were “exaggerated”.
About 650 hostages have been freed from militants at the In Amenas gas facility in Algeria, but about 60 foreigners are still being held
The In Amenas gas field is operated by the Algerian state oil company, Sonatrach, along with the British oil company BP and Norway’s Statoil.
It is situated at Tigantourine, about 40 km (25 miles) south-west of the town of In Amenas and 1,300 km (800 miles) south-east of Algiers.
APS cited local officials as saying the military operation at the gas facility’s living quarters, where most of the hostages were held, had ended on Thursday night.
“Hostages are still being held at the Tigantourine gas treatment plant, which is surrounded by special forces,” APS added.
Later, UK Prime Minister David Cameron told Parliament that he had been told by his Algerian counterpart, Abdelmalek Sellal, that troops were “still pursuing terrorists and possibly some of the hostages”.
Japanese officials were meanwhile quoted as saying by the Kyodo news agency that at least 14 Japanese nationals were still missing. At least three managed to escape.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yoshihide Suga, expressed “deep regret” at the actions of the Algerian security forces and its foreign ministry summoned the Algerian ambassador.
Despite requests for communication and pleas to consider the hostages’ safety, the UK, Japan and US said they had not been told in advance about the military assault.
David Cameron said the Algerian prime minister had told him that commanders had “judged there to be an immediate threat to the lives of the hostages and had felt obliged to respond”.
Algerian Communications Minister Mohand Said Oubelaid said: “Those who think we will negotiate with terrorists are delusional.”
Norway said eight of its nationals were currently unaccounted for. One is being treated at a hospital in In Amenas, while four escaped unharmed.
French Interior Minister Manuel Valls said two French workers were safe. It was unclear if another two were involved, he added.
The Irish government confirmed that one of its citizens was free. Five Americans had survived and left the country, US officials told ABC News. Austria also said one of its nationals had been released and was safe.
A worker from CIS Catering, which employs about 150 Algerians at the facility, told French media he had hidden under the bed in his room for 40 hours before being rescued.
“I put boards everywhere. I had food, water, and I did not know how long I would stay there.”
“When the soldiers came to get me, I did not even know it was over. They were with colleagues, otherwise I would never have opened the door,” he added.
A statement purporting to come from the kidnappers says the raid was carried out in retaliation for the French intervention against Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), in neighboring Mali.
The kidnapping was a complex operation which is unlikely to have been planned and carried out since the surprising French intervention in Mali last Friday.
Algerian officials said the militants were operating under orders from Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who was a senior AQIM commander until late last year.
Foreign citizens involved
14 Japanese missing
8 Norwegians missing
Significantly fewer than 30 Britons “at risk”; two Britons (from Scotland) believed to be safe
Unknown number of Americans
Possibly citizens of Romania, Thailand, the Philippines, Colombia, South Korea and Austria
Algerian troops have surrounded a gas facility in the east of the country where foreign workers are being held hostage by Islamist militants.
The kidnappers occupied the complex at In Amenas on Wednesday, after killing a Briton and an Algerian in an attack on a bus.
Algeria says some 20 foreign nationals are being held hostage, although the kidnappers say they have 41.
The captives include British, Japanese, US, French and Norwegian nationals.
One statement purported to be from the hostage-takers demanded an end to the French military intervention against Islamist rebels in Mali.
Algerian Interior Minister Daho Ould Kabila said the militants wanted to leave the country with the hostages, but he had refused to let them go.
“We reject all negotiations with the group,” he told reporters late on Wednesday.
Daho Ould Kabila added that the kidnappers were Algerian and operating under orders from Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a senior commander of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) before late last year, when he set up his own armed group after apparently falling out with other leaders.
Minister Daho Ould Kabila said a heavily armed “terrorist group” had attacked a bus carrying workers from In Amenas at about 05:00 on Wednesday.
The gas field is operated by the Algerian state oil company, Sonatrach, along with the British oil company BP and Norway’s Statoil.
It is located about 1,300 km (800 miles) south-east of Algiers, and about 60 km (37 miles) west of the Libyan border.
The attackers were repelled by police who had been escorting the bus, but a Briton and an Algerian national had been killed, Daho Ould Kabila said.
Two other British nationals, a Norwegian, two police officers and a security guard were also hurt in the fire fight, he added.
Afterwards, the militants drove to the gas facility’s living quarters and took a number of Algerian and foreign workers hostage.
Dozens of Algerian workers were later released.
Senior al-Qaeda commander Mokhtar Belmokhtar has been identified as the leader behind Algeria kidnapping
The foreign nationals were being held in one wing of the living quarters, which the security services and army had surrounded, Daho Ould Kabila said.
“Since then, they’ve been facing off. The security forces are consolidating their position around the base,” he added.
Early on Thursday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague confirmed that a Briton had died and that “a number” of others were being held hostage.
He described the killings as the “cold-blooded murder of people going about their business”.
A worker told France’s Le Figaro newspaper the captors had mined the facility and demanded food, water and vehicles.
Daho Ould Kabila said nearby border crossings had been closed as a precaution and that the foreign ministry was in contact with diplomats from the hostages’ countries.
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague confirmed the captives included “a number of British nationals”, adding: “This is therefore a very dangerous situation.”
He said the UK government was working “around the clock” to resolve the crisis.
US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta said he could not confirm the exact number of Americans seized in the attack.
“By all indications this is a terrorist act and the United States strongly condemns these kinds of terrorist acts,” he said.
Meanwhile Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said 13 Norwegian employees of Statoil were believed held hostage at the gas facility. Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore said one of its nationals was a hostage.
Japanese news agencies, citing unnamed government officials, said there were three Japanese hostages.
Two groups led by Belmokhtar – the Khaled Abu al-Abbas Brigade and the Signed-in-Blood Battalion – said they were behind the incident.
Earlier, a man claiming to be a spokesman for the militants said al-Qaeda had carried out the attack.
A list of demands had been sent to Algerian authorities, and the hostages would be killed if troops attempted to rescue them, the spokesman added.
”Storming the gas complex would be easy for the Algerian military, but the outcome of such an operation would be disastrous,” he warned.
In a statement carried on Mauritanian media, the Signed-in-Blood Battalion said it would hold the Algerian and French governments and the nations of the hostages responsible if its demands were not met, saying they must bring an end to the French intervention in Mali.
Militant groups have vowed to avenge the intervention, where French forces have been battling Islamists linked to AQIM for the past week.
Algeria has been allowing French aircraft to use its air space.
Fought Soviet forces in Afghanistan in late 1980s
Former leading figure in al-Qaeda in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb. Left in late 2012 after falling out with leaders
Now heads the Khaled Abu al-Abbas Brigade and the Signed-in-Blood Battalion
Known as “The One-Eyed” as he wears an eyepatch over a lost eye
French intelligence has dubbed him “The Uncatchable”, while locals refer to him as “Mister Marlboro” for his illicit cigarettes operation