Algeria’s former president Bouteflika laid to rest

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ALGIERS — Algeria’s former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika was laid to rest at El-Alia cemetery, east of Algiers, on Sunday, amid heavy security presence and official arrangements.

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The north African country’s longest-serving leader passed away on Friday aged 84. President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, government officials, the late leader’s family members and foreign diplomats gathered at the cemetery.

The late president, who ruled the country between 1999 and 2019, quit office in April 2019 following weeks of mass street protests sparked by his bid to run for a fifth presidential term.

Bouteflika’s career took him being from the world’s youngest foreign minister to one of its oldest heads of state, but ended with a humbling fall from power.

The veteran strongman had lived as a recluse since quitting office in April 2019 after the military abandoned him following weeks of street protests sparked by his bid to run for a fifth presidential term.

His muted funeral, with no lying in state and just three days of national mourning instead of eight, reflected a mixed legacy that left many Algerians indifferent to the ceremony.

Bouteflika, who had first served as foreign minister in the mid-1960s, swept to the presidency in 1999 on a wave of popular support as his amnesty offer to Islamist militants helped bring an end to a decade-long civil war.

But despite economic progress amid high oil prices in the early years of his rule, crude exporter Algeria later saw growing corruption and unemployment which became key drivers of the Hirak pro-democracy movement which eventually ousted him.

On Sunday at his funeral, attended by his successor President Tebboune, the minister for Algeria’s independence fighters Laid Rebiga read an eulogy. An armored vehicle towed his flag-draped coffin on a gun carriage adorned with flowers and escorted by lines of police on motorcycles.

The procession traveled from Bouteflika’s nursing home to the cemetery east of downtown Algiers, as bystanders filmed it with their mobile phones. The ceremony was not broadcast live, and on the streets of Algiers, residents showed little interest.

He suffered a mini-stroke in April 2013 that affected his speech, and he was forced to use a wheelchair, barely appearing in public during a presidential campaign the following year.

— Agencies

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