Abdel-Fattah Younis was killed by gunmen Thursday, the head of the Libyan rebels' National Transitional Council said.
Abdel-Fattah Younis was killed by gunmen Thursday, the head of the Libyan rebels' National Transitional Council said. Ben Curtis/AP
The head of the Libyan rebel's armed forces and two of his aides were killed by gunmen Thursday, the head of the rebel leadership said.
The death of Abdel-Fattah Younis 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 leader of the group behind the killing.
Rebel security had arrested Younis and two of his aides early Thursday from their operations room near the rebels' eastern front. Security officials said at the time that Younis was to be questioned about suspicions his family still had ties to Moammar Gadhafi's regime.
Younis was Gadhafi's interior minister before defecting to the rebels early in the uprising, which began in February.
Abdel-Jalil said that Younis had been summoned for questioning regarding "a military matter." He said Younis and his two aides were shot before they arrived for questioning.
Abdel-Jalil called Younis "one of the heroes of the 17th of February revolution," a name marking the date of early protests against Gadhafi's regime.
While he criticized Gadhafi for seeking to break the unity of rebel forces, he did not say directly that Younis' 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 Gadhafi or risk being arrested by security forces.
Reporting from Benghazi, NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro said the murky circumstances surrounding Younis' death and the fact the rebel leadership has not said how exactly he died or specifically why he was being questioned raised tensions in the rebel capital.
"Already we have seen loyalists to Abdel-Fattah Younis saying that they will avenge his death and that raises the specter of fighting within the different groups of the rebel forces," she said.
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.