The official confirmed Algerian news media reports of Said Bouteflika's detention. The 61-year-old served as a special counselor to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, 82, before the ailing leader resigned under pressure April 2 after 20 years in office.
The arrests of three key figures from the Bouteflika era underscored ongoing turmoil in the government as protesters at weekly Friday marches push for the rest of the old guard to go, too. Said Bouteflika was widely viewed in Algeria as the man at the center of a political system that enriched the oil-rich nation's industrialists while young Algerians suffered rates of high unemployment. He has been accused of usurping presidential powers after his brother's 2013 stroke.
The two arrested generals also occupied top positions in the power hierarchy established during Bouteflika's long presidency. Mohamed Mediene, known as Toufik, was for 25 years was in charge of military intelligence service DRS and one of Algeria's most powerful men until he was forced to resign in 2015.
Also detained was Athmane Tartag, who headed the DSS state security service until last month, the official said. The security official said the three men were being questioned by the central security service. The security official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the discreet nature of security services.
There was no official from the government on the arrests. The DSS previously reported to the president but now is under the Defense Ministry, led by the powerful army chief whose withdrawn support helped push Bouteflika out.
Gen. Ahmed Gaid Salah might have had a hand in Saturday's arrests as well. He publicly accused Toufik of plotting against the protesters who took to the streets of Algiers on Feb. 22 after the president formalized his candidacy for a fifth term.
In an April 16 speech, Gaid Salah said he had "irrefutable proof" of the Touflik's alleged actions and warned of legal consequences if the fellow general did not stop behind-the-scenes manuevers, according to a transcript posted by online site TSA Algerie.
Gaid Salah lambasted Said Bouteflika, without naming him, as head of "the gang" that ran Algeria. Protesters picked the label and chanted about the "leader of the gang" while demanding a clean sweep of the government.
Elaine Ganley in Paris contributed.