Libyan rebels in disarray as leader is killed
Published 30/07/2011 | 05:00
Western diplomats were yesterday scrambling to prevent a damaging split in the Libyan opposition after its top commander was killed, possibly by his own comrades.
The mysterious murder of General Abdel-Fattah Younes threatened to set off disastrous infighting within the rebel movement.
Hundreds attended the funeral of Gen Younes in the main square in Benghazi, hours after his bullet-ridden and charred corpse was found.
The leader was ambushed by a group of men while returning to Libya's second city on Thursday. Two aides, a colonel and a major, were also killed.
Suspicions over the origin of the attack were heightened by a summons that had been issued to the general to face questions in court over his continuing ties with Muammar Gaddafi's regime.
While the leadership of the National Transitional Council (NTC) was quick to blame a hit squad from the regime, some of the general's supporters turned on their erstwhile comrades.
After Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the NTC leader, made the announcement of Gen Younes's death, gunmen opened fire on the hotel where he had spoken.
Diplomats were consulting with the NTC leadership in an attempt to defray anger.
Gen Younes, who served as Gaddafi's defence and interior minister, defected to the rebellion at the outset, but he never gained the trust of many rebels.
Gaddafi's daughter Aisha hinted in April that the regime was involved in secret negotiations with the general. A senior official in Tripoli said earlier this month that Gen Younes was the regime's main point of contact with the rebels.
Gen Younes was also engaged in a very public feud with the rebels' most celebrated battlefield commander, Khalifa Hifter. Gen Hifter is considered to have impeccable revolutionary credentials after publicly splitting with Gaddafi in the 1980s.
The rift between Gen Younes and Gen Hifter was seen as an important factor in the pervasive chaos along the frontline, as the two frequently countermanded one another's orders.
David Hartwell, an analyst at IHS Global Insight, said: "Regardless of who killed him, the loss of Gen Younes is a serious blow to the opposition." (©Daily Telegraph, London)