By Asmaa Elourfi
Rebel military chief Abdel Fattah Younes was shot dead last Thursday. The general’s mysterious death sent shockwaves through Libya and beyond.
The rebel council immediately vowed to launch an investigation into his murder, a move welcomed by the international community.
“It’s important that, given the fluidness of the situation on the ground, that the Transitional National Council work to ensure that it takes the right kinds of actions, such as an investigation into the death, and sends a clear and transparent message that they speak on behalf of the Libyan opposition and the Libyan people and that they are diligently carrying out their mandate,” US Department of State Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner told reporters on Monday (August 1st).
Younes, who had served as Moamer Kadhafi’s interior minister before switching sides, was killed along with two aides while returning to Benghazi from Brega, Transitional National Council (TNC) chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil told reporters on Thursday. The armed forces commander had been called for questioning regarding “a military matter”, Abdel Jalil said.
A former close aide of Kadhafi, Younes took part in the 1969 military coup that brought Kadhafi to power. When the February 17th uprising broke out, he was sent to Benghazi to crush the revolt. Five days later, Younes appeared on Al-Jazeera, declaring his resignation and urging the army to “join the people and respond to their legitimate demands”.
His defection marked one of the turning points of the uprising.
He played a key role in training the revolutionaries but also assumed political tasks while receiving the diplomats of the first countries that recognised the TNC.
The news threw the rebel capital into disarray, giving rise to rumours, speculation and a sense of disbelief.
“I was very sad, like the rest of Libyan people, when I heard the news about the General’s assassination,” said secretary Mona Qarqum. “He doesn’t deserve this end because he is a hero.”
“I can’t believe that the general has been assassinated,” said Benghazi resident Saleha Younis Said. “I think he’s arrested somewhere. What is the reason for all these lies?”
Teacher Ghazala Ahmed shared the sentiment. “I felt great pain. He doesn’t deserve that. I feel it was a conspiracy hatched against him between the TNC and Kadhafi. God only knows. Anyway, we won’t forgive those who are responsible for his killing.”
“I felt very sad for him and I completely rule out the possibility of him being a traitor,” al-Sediq al-Werfali told Magharebia. “He’s been a loyal man for his country, and God rest his soul in peace. His death was a tragedy to the revolutionaries and the entire world.”
Mohammed al-Ribi, who took part in the Friday funeral, said that Younes was a “gain” for rebels because he “had worked for Kadhafi for long and knew about his forces and their movements”.
Others, however, believe that Younes’ formerly close ties with Kadhafi tarnished his revolutionary credentials.
“Why did all fronts in Misrata and Western Mountain advance but not the Brega front?” Walid Younes wondered. “It was him who blocked the revolutionaries’ advance. However, I didn’t wish him such an end. The way he was killed is unclear and ambiguous, and this is very suspicious.”
“I’m happy and delighted because we got rid of him,” said Walid al-Shiki. “I’ve been praying to God everyday to rid us of him in any way because he was a criminal.”
Accusations and conflicting reports are rife in Benghazi. While the rebel leadership accused the Kadhafi regime of the killing, some pointed fingers at the TNC. But the unanimous feeling here is that the truth must be exposed and a swift probe conducted.
“We won’t calm down until the truth has been unveiled and all those who committed this horrible crime have been punished,” vowed Quryna editor Muftah Bouzid.
“It’s impossible that this person who offered his own life for his nation to be a spy,” said Libyan journalist Mabruka al-Huni. “Rather, he was the lion of the Libyan revolution. We call for a swift investigation into this case and to punish all those who have anything to do with the assassination of General Abdel Fattah Younes because this is a loss to us and the entire world.”