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Algeria's First President Ben Bella Dies Aged 96

4/12/2012 4:32 AM ET

Ahmed Ben Bella, the first President of Algeria after it gained independence from France half a century ago, died of old age related illness, the state media reported on Wednesday.

Ben Bella, 96, was released from hospital after undergoing tests in February, the Algeria Press Agency reported quoting his relatives.

He was Algeria's President from 1962 to 1965 until he was overthrown by his Defense Minister Houari Boumediene, a close ally of current President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Son of peasant farmers who grew up near Algeria's border with Morocco, Ben Bella was one of the leading figures in the war for independence from France after World War II, and had spent several years in French prisons.

When the French left Algeria in 1962, Ben Bella became President but was unseated three years later in an internal coup by Boumediene, a fellow independence fighter who took over as head of state. Ben Bella subsequently spent years in jail and exile before returning to Algeria in 1999.

Since 2007, Ben Bella had chaired the African Union's panel of experts tasked with advising the AU's peace and security council on conflict prevention and resolution. His death coincides with the 50th anniversary of Algerian independence.

by RTT Staff Writer

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