The chief of Algeria’s national police was shot dead during a meeting at his headquarters yesterday when a fellow officer fired his pistol in a fit of insanity, the Interior Ministry said.
There was no indication of any link between the killing of veteran police chief Ali Tounsi and al Qaeda insurgents who periodically attack government targets in Algeria, a major oil and gas exporter.
“The death of Ali Tounsi took place during a working session, in the course of which a police official, apparently gripped by an attack of madness, used his weapon and fatally wounded Colonel Tounsi,” state radio quoted a ministry statement as saying.
“A judicial enquiry has been opened to determine the circumstances of this distressing event,” the statement said.
The police force commanded by Tounsi has played an important role in the Algerian government’s effort to stamp out the long-running insurgency by Islamist militants.
Earlier, a security source told Reuters that Tounsi, national police chief for more than a decade and a veteran of Algeria’s war of independence from France in the 1950s and 1960s, was shot inside his office by a senior police official with whom he was having an argument.
“This guy was unhappy, he took out his pistol and he fired it,” the source said. “Police officers nearby fired back.”
Another security source said the attacker had earlier been dismissed from his job by Tounsi, and was remonstrating with the police chief about the decision when he fired his weapon.
The Interior Ministry statement said that after shooting the police chief, the attacker shot himself and was now in serious condition in hospital. It made no mention of police firing back.
An official, who did not want to be identified, said it was unlikely Tounsi’s killing would be a set-back for the government’s counter-insurgency, which has been successful in reducing the rebellion to a hardcore of a few hundred fighters.
The police share responsibility for combating the insurgents with the gendarmerie, or paramilitary police, and the intelligence services and army.
“Tounsi’s death is a big loss but it won’t have any impact on the fight against terrorism,” the official, who is familiar with security issues, told Reuters.
“The fight against terror is not conducted by one person but by all of Algeria’s institutions.”
Pic: Flag of Algeria