Abdel Fatah Younis assassination creates division among Libya rebels
The report said Younis and two aides were dragged from the room by gunmen and later found burned and riddled with bullets on a city street. It said the identities of the gunmen were unknown. Neither Agoury's nor the radio station's report could be confirmed.
Black Star Editor's Note: As the insurgency by the NATO-backed Libyan "rebels" in Benghazi now faces internal conflict, the pro-"rebel" New York Times website has not posted a new story on the brutal murder of Gen. Younes, commander of the so-called "rebels", apparently by his own compatriots. Yet, Britain's The Guardian does have a persuasive report -- below-- about Gen. Younes' killing, reporting that he was dragged out of his hotel room in Benghazi and that his bullet riddled and burnt body was later dumped on the streets.
Chris Stephen in Misrata, Lizzy Davies and Ian Traynor
Friday 29 July 2011 19.30 BST---The fractious coalition fighting to oust Muammar Gaddafi was plunged into disarray on Friday as the mysterious death of the rebels' army commander sparked anger from his powerful tribe and distrust among those loyal to the cause.
The assassination of Abdel Fatah Younis, one of Gaddafi's former right-hand men and a high-profile defector to the rebels, was announced at a late-night press conference on Thursday by Mustafa Abdul Jalil, president of the ruling National Transitional Council. But yesterday Jalil, who said only that Younis had been killed on his way back to Benghazi where he had been "summoned" for questioning, failed to explain the circumstances of the death.
The killing of Younis came a day after Britain said that it had extended official recognition to the National Transitional Council. It is likely to have caused consternation in Whitehall after William Hague praised the "legitimacy and competence" of the rebels. The Foreign Office is now faced with the spectre of serious divisions within the rebels leading the five-month uprising against Gaddafi.
As hundreds of mourners took to the Benghazi streets for the funeral procession, the opposition capital was tense, with reports of gunfire in the early hours. As he followed Younis's coffin through the city, the commander's nephew, Abdul Hakim, told Reuters: "We got the body yesterday here [in Benghazi], he had been shot with bullets and burned."
Jalil had initially said the body of Younis had vanished, but it was paraded, together with those of a colonel and major killed with him, before mourners in Benghazi's Tahrir Square. Gathered for Friday prayers, they chanted his name as the coffins passed.
Hours before his death was made public, Younis was rumoured to have been arrested and detained in Benghazi by members of the NTC over links he had supposedly kept with the regime.
Under pressure to say whether Younis has been arrested before his death and if so, whether this was linked to his killing, Jalil refused to comment, failing to say where the attack happened, or when, or to confirm that the attackers were pro-Gaddafi elements, though he has announced one unnamed attacker has been arrested.
Suspicion that pro-rebel elements may have had a hand in the death of Younis was boosted when a special forces member under his command reportedly pointed the finger at a rebel faction. Mohammed Agoury told the Associated Press that he had been present when rebels from the February 17 Martyrs' Brigade came to Younis's operations room and took him away for questioning. In an accusation that reflected growing rifts in the rebel movement, Agoury said the group had killed Younis and dumped his body outside Benghazi.
Another account, reported by the rebels' Radio Misrata, said Younis had been killed after being attacked in a Benghazi hotel room, where he had been installed by the authorities after being summoned back to the rebel capital on Thursday for questioning. The report said Younis and two aides were dragged from the room by gunmen and later found burned and riddled with bullets on a city street. It said the identities of the gunmen were unknown. Neither Agoury's nor the radio station's report could be confirmed.
A Gaddafi regime spokesman claimed yesterday that al-Qaida killed Younis.
Whatever the truth of the killing, Jalil will face the hostility of Younis's clan, the biggest tribe in Benghazi, if he fails to conclusively show that rebel forces had no hand in the general's death. Members of the Obeidi tribe shot out the windows of the hotel where Jalil gave his late-night press conference, shouting that the rebel authorities had killed him. With the rebel coalition already fractious, a split with the largest tribal group is the last thing the NTC needs.
In the besieged city of Misrata, too, the death sparked consternation. Misrata's military spokesman joined the city's ruling council in emphasising that its army units did not take orders from Benghazi. And security was stepped up amid fears of attacks by pro-Gaddafi elements, the fabled "fifth column" that is an anxiety across rebel-held areas.
Younis was a controversial figure as chief of staff, having defected after quitting his post as Gaddafi's interior minister at the start of the revolution. Many in the rebel camp did not fully trust a man who had been a close confidant of Gaddafi for 40 years. When asked by the New York Times in April whether Younis had kept in contact with her father, Gaddafi's daughter Aisha "pointedly" refused to respond, reported the newspaper.
From a diplomatic point of view, the controversy over his death comes at a delicate time for the rebels. On Friday Britain, which firmly endorsed the NTC as the "sole governmental authority" on Wednesday, issued a statement which shied away from attributing responsibility for the assassination. The minister for the Middle East and North Africa, Alistair Burt, said: "Exactly what happened remains unclear. I welcome chairman Abd Al-Jalil's statement yesterday that the killing will be thoroughly investigated, and he reiterated this to me during our conversation. We agreed that it is important that those responsible are held to account through proper judicial processes."
Mahmoud al-Nacua, the newly appointed diplomatic envoy of the NTC in London, refused to comment.
In Brussels, Nato officials stressed that they were not fully in the picture on the circumstances of the murder, and that the military alliance did not want to be seen to be speaking for the opposition to Gaddafi. But they delivered a warning to the NTC, suggesting Nato was confident the opposition was to blame. "The opposition forces have a big responsibility to ensure the transition to democracy occurs in an orderly fashion. We expect them to live up to this," said a Nato official. "So far they've done a lot to ensure that this is an inclusive process, reaching out to different groups. We expect that to continue."
A Gaddafi spokesman said his forces had killed at least 190 rebels in fighting in the west of the country since Wednesday.
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