x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Tribe of murdered Libyan general promises it will seek justice for his death

Mystery still hangs over shooting of General Abdel Fattah Younis as as rebels uncovered a hit list with names and addresses of 60 of their leaders, during an operation to smoke out a suspected sleeper cell that supports Qaddafi.

BENGHAZI // The powerful tribe of the Libyan rebels' slain military commander said it was determined to find justice themselves for his suspicious killing last week if rebel leaders failed to investigate it fully.

The announcement came as rebels uncovered a hit list with the names and addresses of about 60 of their leaders, during an operation to smoke out a suspected sleeper cell that supports Colonel Muammar Qaddafi.

General Abdel Fattah Younis's death, apparently while in the custody of fellow rebels bringing him back from battle for unspecified questioning, raised fears of deep divisions in the rebel camp.

"The way he was killed looks like a betrayal, so until now we are trying to calm and control the youth of the tribe, but we don't know what could happen," one of Younis's sons told foreign reporters on Tuesday when asked if rifts could turn violent.

He declined to be named but spoke on behalf of the family gathered around him, following a crisis summit of leaders of some 90 tribes led by Younis's Ubaideyat tribe, one of Libya's biggest, at the family ranch in the rebel stronghold Benghazi.

After two days of confusion, rebel leaders said on Saturday the assailants were militiamen allied to the rebels in their struggle to overthrow Colonel Qaddafi. On Tuesday, the rebels said files with sensitive information about key members of their political and military leadership were found at the headquarters of Katiba Nida Libya, a Benghazi-based brigade now believed to have been secretly allied to Colonel Qaddafi's regime.

There were about 60 people on the list, the deputy interior minister, Mustafa Al Sagazly, said, including "members of the [National Transitional Council], the military council, the cabinet of the NTC executive."

"There were names and addresses," he said, "some of the addresses were correct".

Mr Al Sagazly said Younis, whose body found dumped early Friday, had been on the hit list, but it was not at all clear that the brigade were behind his killing.

Katiba Nida Libya, whose exact number is not known, came under suspicion after being linked to an audacious Benghazi jail break that resulted in the escape of as many as 300 inmates, including some important war prisoners.

At dawn on Sunday rebel security forces staged a five-hour raid on a Benghazi licence plate factory where the group was holed up, leaving four rebels and five Qaddafii loyalists dead.

Mr Al Sagazly said that 37 members of the brigade had since been arrested, along with at least 69 escapees. Younis's family complained on Monday that the rebel leadership was dragging its feet over its own investigation into the murder, which they said smacked of conspiracy and treason.

If needed, they said they would turn for help to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which has issued an arrest warrant for Colonel Qaddafi over alleged crimes against humanity.

Younis was shot dead with two aides at some point after he was summoned to Benghazi by the National Transitional Council, the rebel leadership now recognised diplomatically by many Western states.

"If the council doesn't bring us justice, and if the [international] judiciary don't bring us justice, then we will leave it to the tribe to bring us justice," Younis's son said.

Tribes have a huge influence in Libyan society. Younis's tribe, from the rebel-held east, numbers about 400,000. Family members say the NTC has not yet formed its investigation committee nor named any of its members.

On Tuesday the son said the tribe had refused to let NTC officials attend mourning days where people pay condolences to the family "because the tribe was upset, they feel that either the council had a hand in it or they are neglecting it".

* Reuters with additional reporting by Agence France-Presse