Algeria: Who is General Chouiter, new chief spymaster for Algiers?

By Farid Alilat
Posted on Friday, 23 September 2022 11:05

General Saïd Chengriha, Chief of Staff of the National People's Army (ANP), presided over the installation of General Abdelaziz Nouiouet Chouiter in his position as Central Director of Army Security on 11 September 2022, on behalf of the President of the Republic. ©DR

General Abdelaziz Nouiouet Chouiter has taken over as chief of Algeria’s military intelligence and security. We profile this field officer, who made his debut during the fight against terrorism in the 1990s.

“These are his old stomping grounds”. This is how an old acquaintance of General Abdelaziz Nouiouet Chouiter summed up his career after his appointment by decree on 7 September as head of the army’s central security directorate (DCSA), dedicated to military intelligence and security.

Four years after he officially retired in 2018, Chouiter is back in business, succeeding General Sid Ali Ould Zmirli, who held the office since March 2020.

The defence ministry, which announced the appointment, did not offer any explanation for Zmirli’s ouster. According to our information, his departure is linked to ongoing investigations into officers of the DCSA and the external intelligence department (DGDSE), due to suspicions of disclosure of state secrets and a plot against the army.

Anti-terrorism fight

The defendants, who were questioned at length during the month of August, were placed in provisional detention in the Blida military prison. Among them are Sid Ali Ould Zmirli’s brother, Colonel Omar Ould Zmirli, and Lieutenant Colonel Tarik Amirat, a former intelligence officer in Paris.

Known to be very close to Saïd Bouteflika, late President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s brother currently in El-Harrach prison, Amirat was already placed under a detention warrant at Blida in May 2019 and convicted of non-compliance with military orders.

In February 2020, three months after the disappearance of Ahmed Gaïd Salah, former Deputy Minister of Defence and army Chief of Staff,  he was released, but disbarred from the army. A year later, Amirat was mysteriously reinstated and assigned to the DGDSE, where his actions finally alerted the military command. He is now facing up to 20 years in prison.

In this context of arrests and incarcerations of these senior military intelligence and security officers, this change of leadership at the DCSA should bring some serenity to this department, a formidable instrument of the defence ministry.

Born in Oued Zenati, in eastern Algeria, Chouiter first trained with the parachutists before actively participating in the fight against terrorism in the 1990s, especially in Oranien and the southwest of the country. A man in the field and renowned adventurer, his expertise in the fight against armed Islamic groups led him to join the ranks of the intelligence and security department (DRS, dissolved in 2016).

Battalions of secret agents

In this institution of the Algerian secret services, which was headed for 25 years by retired General Mohamed Mediene, known as Toufik, Chouiter was assigned in the mid-1990s within the DCSA as deputy to General M’henna Djebbar, who was appointed on September 3 last year as head of external intelligence (DGDSE).  “[Choutier’s] time at the DCSA and his close collaboration with Djebbar make him one of the men who knows best the workings of the army’s security,” confided one of his former colleagues.

A man of integrity, so discreet that there are almost no photos of him, starting in 2015 Chouiter directed the higher institution dedicated to intelligence techniques at Beni Messous (in the hills above Algiers), which trained battalions of secret agents. In the wake of a vast operation of dismissals and incarcerations of several high-ranking army officers, initiated in mid-2018 under the leadership of Ahmed Gaïd Salah, he was offered retirement.

His return as head of the DCSA is part of the reorganisation of the various directorates of intelligence and security, in effect since early 2022 by the tandem formed by President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and Army Chief of Staff Saïd Chengriha.

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