Libyan rebel leader's death a mystery

2011-07-29 18:04
Benghazi - The death of General Abdel Fatah Younes, commander of forces fighting to oust Muammar Gaddafi, remained cloaked in mystery on Friday, as rebels pointed the finger of blame at the Libyan leader.

Younes was shot dead by an armed gang after he was summoned from the front by the rebel National Transitional Council "for questioning over military issues," NTC chairperson Mustafa Abdel Jalil said late on Thursday.

His killing, and that of two military officers with him, deals military and political blows to the rebels that could indicate divisions within their ranks, even as they make fresh advances in a pre-Ramadan push to drive Kadhafi out.

"With all sadness, I inform you of the passing of Abdel Fatah Younes, the commander-in-chief of our rebel forces," Abdel Jalil said in a carefully worded statement at a press conference in Benghazi, the rebels' eastern capital.

"The person who carried out the assassination was captured," a somber looking Abdel Jalil said without elaborating. He added there would be three days of mourning in Younes's honour.

Around 200 mourners paid their respects to Younes at a wake early on Friday in the premises of the general's villa in Benghazi, a witnesss said.

The assassination of Younes, Libya's former interior minister and number two in Gaddafi’s regime prior to his defection in February, has fuelled widespread rumours amid unconfirmed reports that the rebels themselves arrested and killed him for treason.

A senior opposition figure in Benghazi on Friday accused Gaddafi of playing a role in the killing.

The early reports from Tripoli that Younes had been killed suggested Gaddafi wanted it in a bid to get rebels to withdraw from the strategic eastern oil town of Brega.

"All these are signs Gaddafi was behind it," the official told AFP, asking not to be named.

He downplayed the risk of any divisions in the ranks of the rebels or score-settling by tribes.

- SAPA
Read more on:    muammar gaddafi  |  libya  |  libya protests  |  north africa  |  uprisings
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