August 17, 2018 / 3:41 PM / in 3 months

UPDATE 1-Algeria's Bouteflika sacks 2 senior army generals -presidency

(Adds detail, background)

ALGIERS, Aug 17 (Reuters) - Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on Friday dismissed two senior generals, the presidency said, a fresh upheaval in the OPEC oil producer’s power structure ahead of a presidential election next year.

The generals, Said Bey and Lahbib Chentouf, had been in charge of the first and second military regions. Algeria, a key gas supplier to Europe, is divided into six military regions.

A presidency statement did not give a reason for the dismissals which came two months after Bouteflika sacked the North African country’s powerful police chief, Abdelghani Hamel.

He also fired in June Menad Nouba, who was in charge of the gendarmerie, a separate security unit controlled by the army.

State media gave no reason for those dismissals at the time, but they triggered speculation by observers and local media about power struggles within Algeria’s opaque political, military and business elite ahead of the 2019 presidential election.

The ruling FLN party has urged Bouteflika, who has been wheelchair-bound and rarely appeared in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, to run for a fifth term.

The veteran leader, in office since 1999, has not said yet whether he will stand.

General Ali Sidane, who was the director of the Cherchell military academy, will replace Chentouf, and general Meftah Sawab who served as chief of the sixth military region will replace Bey, a statement said. (Reporting by Lamine Chikhi; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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