Libya rebel leader Younes killed, Benghazi wobbles
One thing that's certain is that Abdel Fateh Younes, a longtime aide of Muammar Qaddafi who defected to Libya's rebels in February, was murdered today. But the circumstances of his death are murky and troubling.
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After Hefter returned home in March, he declared himself – with the clear backing of at least some of the rebel leadership – the new head of the rebel military. Weeks were spent jockeying for position, with whispers on one side about Younes's Qaddafi ties, and whispers on the other that Hefter was a CIA asset and not to be trusted as a longtime exile. Younes ended up winning that round and Hefter has been largely behind the scenes since.Skip to next paragraph
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There has been deep distrust of Younes in some quarters in Benghazi since the moment he arrived. On Feb. 20, he swung trained forces under his command to the support of civilians who with Molotov cocktails and stones were desperately trying to dislodge Qaddafi's forces from the Benghazi Barracks, or kutaiba.
His intervention proved decisive, but witnesses who fought on the civilian side that day reported that his forces also appeared to provide a security cordon to still armed Qaddafi loyalists, who retreated to the country's west. If Younes ordered this, it wouldn't necessary be evidence of perfidy – perhaps mercy for men who served along side with, or simply an expedient way to avoid bloodshed on both sides. But for some, it planted a kernel of doubt.
Shortly after Jalil's announcement, an agitated group of gunmen arrived at the hotel where he'd spoken, firing small arms and an anti-aircraft gun into the sky, escalating tension in the city. Witnesses said they appeared to hold the TNC responsible for Younes's death.
What really happened? It may be days before we have a clear picture, if then. But whatever happened here, there have been emerging splits in rebel ranks, and the likelihood that there could be a "war after the war" is looking greater (I have generally been skeptical about extensive fighting in the event Qaddafi loses, but have grown more pessimistic about my own opinion in recent weeks).
For now, the first major defector from the core of Qaddafi's security forces lies dead while Qaddafi, hounded by NATO airstrikes but untouched, remains in power in Tripoli.
While Libyan rebels have lost the head of the rebel army, Abdel Fateh Younes, Britain now recognizes Libyan rebels as the country's sole legitimate government. Watch video here: