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Algerian president Bouteflika's jet leaves Geneva, lands in Algeria

Cars on runway at Geneva airport

The Gulfstream 4SP jet rumoured to be carrying Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika takes off from Geneva airport on March 10, 2019

(© Keystone / Martial Trezzini)

An Algerian government plane believed to be carrying President Abdelaziz Bouteflika took off from Geneva airport on Sunday afternoon.  The Algerian president's office later said the 82-year-old had returned home after two weeks in Geneva for "periodic medical examinations".

Bouteflika, who suffered a stroke in 2013 and has rarely been seen in public, faces mass protests in Algeria over his plans to stand for a fifth term.

He was admitted to the Geneva University Hospital (HUG) on February 24 for “periodic medical examinations”, according to the Algerian presidency. But there has been much speculation about his condition and precise whereabouts.

Earlier on Sunday, an Algerian government Gulfstream 4SP jet landed at Geneva airport at 9.45am amid a heavy police presence. It is the same plane that brought Bouteflika to the western Swiss city on February 24.

On Sunday afternoon, reports showed a convoy of around half a dozen vehicles leaving the HUG escorted by police which later arrived at Geneva airport. 

The Algerian government plane then took off just before 4pm, according to the Flight Radar site and a Keystone-ATS photographer at the airport. 

Algerian media later reported that Bouteflika had landed at a military airport south of the capital Algiers and quickly departed in a convoy.

The president's office announced in a statement on Sunday evening, cited by the official press agency APS, that Bouteflika had returned to Algeria on Sunday after two weeks in hospital in Geneva following "periodic medical examinations".

The same day, thousands took to the streets of the capital, the latest in two weeks of rallies across the country against the veteran leader, carrying the Algerian flag and chanting: "Bouteflika, there will be no fifth term". Many shops in Algiers were closed and residents say train services had been suspended. 

The protestors reject the 82-year-old's plans to seek re-election. Last Thursday, Boutekflika issued his first warning to protesters, saying the unrest could create chaos in North African country. 

Keystone SDA/Reuters/sb

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