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Army chief becomes Algeria's new leader

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AFP, Algiers :
As chief of Algeria's military for a record 15 years, general Ahmed Gaid Salah has became the country's de facto leader after longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned in April.
Many now see the general, a veteran of Algeria's war for independence, as the guardian of the military-dominated system that has been in power ever since.He has acted as the key driving force behind Thursday's presidential election.
When Bouteflika appointed him in 2004 to head the armed forces-the backbone of Algeria's opaque regime-he became one of the North African country's most powerful men.
For years, Gaid Salah unwaveringly supported Bouteflika, even backing the octogenarian's unpopular bid early this year for a fifth term in office.
But the president's February announcement that he would stand for election yet again sparked weeks of unprecedented mass demonstrations.
In early April, Gaid Salah called on his boss to resign; Bouteflika quit the same day. That left the army chief effectively in control of the country.
Born in 1940 in Batna region, some 300 kilometres (190 miles) southwest of Algiers, Gaid Salah has spent more than six decades in the armed forces.
At the age of 17, he joined Algeria's National Liberation Army in its gruelling eight-year war against French colonial forces. When the North African country proclaimed its independence in 1962 after 132 years as a French colony, he joined the army, attended a Soviet military academy and rose through the ranks.

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