Algerian Sonatrach energy boss fired

Abdelhamid Zerguine, the head of Algeria's national oil and gas company Sonatrach, has been relieved of his duties and replaced by his deputy Said Sahnoune, AFP learned on Saturday.

Company sources said Zerguine, who had been Sonatrach managing director since 2011, was reportedly sacked by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, after a recommendation by Energy Minister Youssef Yousfi.

Sahnoune, who assumes the leadership of the state-run company on an interim basis, is officially in charge of prospecting.

Zerguine took over the reins of Africa's largest energy company three years ago when he replaced Nourredine Cherouati, who had been in charge for less than two years.

Sonatrach, which can claim annual earnings of $60 billion, accounts for 60 percent of Algeria's state budget and brings in 97 percent of its foreign income.

The company has been shaken in recent years by a series of financial scandals, which have been the subject of court proceedings in Algeria and several other countries, particularly Italy.

It was also the victim of a major attack in January 2013 when Islamic militants seized the huge natural gas complex at Tiguentourine in the southeast.

Around 40 foreign hostages, including three Americans, were killed in the four-day siege and army rescue operation that followed.