Tunisia’s military strongman General Rachid Ammar unexpectedly announced his retirement on Tuesday after being criticized over the army’s inability to catch a band of al-Qaeda-linked militants.
During the uprising in 2011, the Army’s Chief-of-Staff, was seen as having a key role in forcing out dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali by banning troops from firing on protesters at the pro-democracy revolt.
However, opposing politicians have recently criticized Ammar for the Army’s inability to find the band of extremists near the Algerian border.
According to the Associated Press (AP), Ammar had wanted to retire since 2006 but has been one way or another convinced to stay.
Ammar appeared on state television late Monday to say he had submitted his resignation to President Moncef Marzouki last Saturday.
Born in either 1947 or 1948, Ammar is from Sayada, a small town on the coast of Tunisia.
Ammar was promoted to Chief-of-Staff from the rank of Colonel after the Chief-of- Staff, Abdelaziz Skik, was killed in a 2002 helicopter crash, which is considered mysterious by several soldiers and journalists who have also hold Ben Ali's government responsible. Since the crash, the Tunisian Army and the Tunisian Presidency have seen a lack of trust. The same helicopter crash also killed five Colonels, four Majors and two Lieutenants.
Ammar is a member of the Joint Chiefs-of-Staff and was received along with other members of the Council by Ali at a ceremony during the summer of 2010. There, Ammar was promoted by Ben Ali from the rank of Divisional General to that of Corps General.
On January 13, 2011, Ammar refused to follow the orders of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, then President of Tunisia, to shoot protesters participating in the 2010–2011 Tunisian protests. He responded to the Presidential order with, “Agree to deploy soldiers to calm the situation, but the Army does not shoot the people”.
Ben Ali then sacked Ammar for not obeying his order and put him under house arrest.
On January 14, Ben Ali fled Tunisia and Ammar was reinstated by Mohamed Ghannouchi.
Source: AP; Wikipedia