29 Jul 2011

Younes is .. Dead !!

It was quite an eventful night after an eventful day. 

Rumours started circulating early morning on Thursday about Rebel Army Commander Abdul Fattah Younes having been arrested !!

- Arrested? By whom, I asked? 
- By the Transitional National Council ..
- Aren't they on the same side? 
- Yes, I was told, but.. there are issues !

It did not sound too good. Nobody would confirm to us the rumours which were growing stronger by the hour.

It was clear something was indeed happening.. and by the time we got a confirmed source telling us that Abdul Fattah Younes had indeed been arrested and called in for questioning, the rumours had gone in a different direction. They were saying the man has been killed, some going as far as saying : he was executed for his treason!

Treason???? What does that mean? That he was still working for Gaddafi??

Now that is indeed a very very serious accusation. Younes is one of the so-called "Free Officers" who accompanied Muammar Gaddafi in his 1969 "Al Fateh Revolution". He is considered one of his long-time closest comrades. He was his Interior Minister - since 2009 - when he defected in February 2011 at the start of the revolution because of Gaddafi's repression of protesters. He commanded a battalion based in Benghazi, the Special Forces known as Battalion 32.

We spent long hours waiting for the TNC to issue a statement amid growing rumours about Younes' fate, about some rebel troops having retreated from the Brega frontline, about special forces deploying in Benghazi and much more. And finally TNC head Mustapha Abdul Jalil showed up.

He said Younes was killed, he was a martyr, alluding to Gaddafi being behind this assasination.

No body though !


I asked a TNC member how they knew he was killed if they had no body. He said : we have witnesses who saw the killing.

Shortly after the statement by Abdul Jalil things started going crazy at Tibesty Hotel where we all were. Gunshots were heard just outside the hotel, two young men were screaming in the lobby : so you made him a traitor, so you made him an agent?

The hotel lobby was packed with journalists and others who had attended the official statement reading by Abdul Jalil. I don't know where Abdul Jalil was but I did not see him leave, unless he had left through a backdoor, which is possible.

The shooting continued for a while, we all hid away from the entrance of the hotel lobby.  A colleague of mine outside happened to be speaking on the phone when his camera was taken away from him by the same people that were shooting. He said they arrived in a car and they were all armed.

So we, unarmed people stayed inside the hotel while armed people were outside the hotel. They were arguing and gunshots continued.  A hotel window was smashed.

That was around 11.30pm local Benghazi time.

About an hour later or more, another shooting took place. 20-30 people tried to storm into the hotel, but were stopped by security. The hotel lobby was evacuated.  People on the street were chanting angrily : The martyrs' blood will not go in vain !

Things got calm soon afterwards. Crowds slowly pulled away from the street across the hotel.

Someone I know claims to have spoken to Younes by phone just before he was killed. He said to me that Younes' body had been burned. He also claimed that Younes told him it was salafists (radical islamists) who had come for him with the NTC arrest warrant. This person claimed Younes was "arrested" and taken back to Benghazi just as he was planning to enter Brega and that Younes decided not to fight it, went along with it. Younes was allegedly hoping to enter Brega and pray there on Friday. 

Others are saying that Younes was working for Gaddafi, was giving wrong coordinates to NATO, had stacked weapons somewhere without telling anyone about it. These were allegedly the probable reasons for the TNC's arrest order. He was supposedly going to be questioned in Benghazi.

We are told he was killed outside Qar Younes Camp before the questioning. But even this information is contradictory with other information.

Whatever the truth may be, this is certainly a big blow to the revolutionaries and an automatic victory for Gaddafi, whether or not he was involved in setting it up. We are talking about the rebel's top military commander being assasinated by we-don't-know-whom. It is a big thing. People were really shocked in Benghazi.

Younes is from El Oubaidat Tribe, a huge tribe in Eastern Libya. We saw a tribesman sitting next to Abdul Jalil during his official statement. But we don't know how the tribe might react, although Abdul Jalil said that he and the tribes agreed that the focus now should be on Gaddafi, meaning any differences can be dealt with later.

The last thing this revolution needs is division. Let's see how the next few hours unfold. It looks quiet in Benghazi for now as I am heading to the Friday prayer in Courthouse Square, the local version of "Tahrir Square".
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