/UPDATE**/ Libyan Rebel Military Leader Killed

  • by Correspondents* - IPS/Al-Jazeera (doha)
  • Thursday, July 28, 2011
  • Inter Press Service

The death of Abdel Fattah Younes was announced at a press conference in the de facto rebel capital, Benghazi, by the head of the rebels' National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdul Jalil. He told reporters that rebel security had arrested the head of the group behind the killing.

Rebel security had arrested Younes and two of his aides early on Thursday from their operations room near the rebels' eastern front. Security officials said at the time that Younes was to be questioned about suspicions his family still had ties to Muammar Gaddafi's regime.

Younes was Gaddafi's interior minister before defecting to the rebels early in the uprising, which began in February.

Abdul Jalil said that Younes had been summoned for questioning regarding 'a military matter.' He said Younes and his two aides were shot before they arrived for questioning.

Abdel-Jalil called Younes 'one of the heroes of the 17th of February revolution,' a name marking the date of early protests against Gaddafi's regime.

While he criticised Gaddafi for seeking to break the unity of rebel forces, he did not say directly that Younes' killers were associated with the regime. Instead, he issued a stiff warning about 'armed groups' in rebel-held cities, saying they needed to join the fight against Gaddafi or risk being arrested by security forces.

There were reports of gunfire outside the hotel in Benghazi following the press conference.

Also, at least three loud explosions shook the centre of the Libyan capital Tripoli shortly after rebel forces announced the death of their commander-in-chief.

Two explosions were heard at 10:20 pm local time (20:20 GMT), followed by another blast several minutes later, as Libyan television reported that planes were flying over the Libyan capital, which has been the target of NATO air raids.

Rebel offensive

Meanwhile, Libyan opposition fighters in the western mountains have launched attacks on several government-controlled towns, hoping to push out loyalist troops and open a route to the border.

The attacks began around dawn as rebels descended from around the towns of Nalut and Jadu in an attempt to expel forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi from the Nafusa mountain foothills.

By midday local time, rebels had taken and lost the town of al-Jawsh and reached the outskirts of Ghazaya, a significant base for Gaddafi's troops near the Tunisian border.

Four rebels were killed and 10 injured, while 18 loyalist troops were captured, according to opposition sources. Rebels from Nalut assemble before moving out to attack Gaddafi positions [Nalut Media Committee]

Al Jazeera's James Bays, who approached al-Jawsh with the rebel advance, said fighters initially took the town and moved on but were caught by a surprise counterattack.

Despite hitting al-Jawsh with artillery fire and attempting to clear out Gaddafi's troops, some regime forces apparently remained in town, while others fired Grad rockets after the rebels entered.

Farther west, Ghazaya had been bombard by rebel tanks and 'long-range guns' throughout Wednesday night in preparation for the attack, an opposition source said.

The fight for Ghazaya continued into Thursday afternoon, and rebels claimed to have seized the nearby town of Takut. A rebel spokesman in Jadu claimed rebels had taken Ghazaya, but that claim was not confirmed by other sources.

Hundreds of trucks carrying hundreds of fighters were involved in the operation at al-Jawsh, Bays said.

It appeared to be the largest attack by opposition fighters in the Nafusa Mountains since the conflict began.

* Published under agreement with Al-Jazeera. ** This story updates Libya Opposition Arrests Senior Leader, moved Jul. 28.

© Inter Press Service (2011) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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