Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has returned home after more than a month in France, where he had surgery for a bleeding stomach ulcer.
Thousands of supporters flooded into the capital Algiers from all over the country to greet him. They gathered around the airport and packed into city centre streets from dawn. At one point the president’s motorcade halted and Bouteflika delighted the exuberant crowd by going for a short walkabout, shaking hands with well-wishers. The 68-year-old Algerian leader was flown to a military hospital in Paris on 26 November and discharged three weeks later. Secrecy surrounding the nature of the operation and his state of health has prompted speculation that his condition might be more serious than has been revealed. Bouteflika’s first official act when he reached the Presidential Palace was to sign the country’s budget for the year ahead. Having been re-elected in 2004 for a second five-year term he enjoys widespread support and is seen by many Algerians as a symbol of stability. He led his country out of a civil war that lasted more than a decade and left around 150,000 people dead.