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Algerian protesters march again as spy boss reported sacked

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By Reuters
Algerian protesters march again as spy boss reported sacked
People carry a national flag during a protest to push for the removal of the current political structure, in Algiers, Algeria April 5, 2019. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina   -   Copyright  RAMZI BOUDINA(Reuters)

By Lamine Chikhi and Hamid Ould Ahmed

ALGIERS (Reuters) – Hundreds of thousands of protesters demanding radical change marched through Algiers for a seventh successive Friday, as Algeria’s spy chief was reportedly fired in a further sign of high-level turmoil after the veteran president resigned.

The demonstrators are pushing for the removal of what they see as an outdated and opaque political apparatus, built around the ruling party, army officers, businessmen, unions and veterans of a 1954-62 independence war against France.

“We want to uproot the symbols of the system,” said teacher Ahmed Badili, as the crowds jammed downtown streets.

“We want radical change, not temporary solutions,” said state bank employee Noureddine Dimi, 52.

The intelligence chief, retired army general Athmane Tartag, was a close ally of president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who quit on Tuesday under pressure from the army.

The military said it was acting in the national interest after weeks of anti-government demonstrations.

In the weeks before his resignation, Bouteflika’s inner circle had already been depleted by the exit of several close allies from influential positions in politics and business.

Tartag’s departure was reported by the private Ennahar TV, and two political sources confirmed that he had been sacked.

Ennahar added that his position would return to the supervision of the defence ministry, rather than the presidency.

The intelligence service has in the past been an important component of the military’s influence in national affairs, and played a backroom role in politics as well as in the 1990s civil war.

But in 2016, Bouteflika removed it from the supervision of the defence ministry and placed it under the authority of the presidency to try to ease it out of the political sphere.

Algeria, an oil and gas producer that has helped Western allies fight terrorism, is now in the hands of a caretaker government, which will stay in office until elections in three months’ time.

No clear successor to Bouteflika has yet emerged. Protesters have made it clear they will reject any candidate with ties to the old guard.

“We are determined to continue this battle. The people will have the last word,” said 27-year-old student Farid Badini.

(Writing by Michael Georgy, Editing by Angus MacSwan, William Maclean)