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July 31, 2011 1:00 pm

Rift Among Libyan Rebels After Commander Killed by Renegade Group

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Distrust and internal infighting threatens to break apart the once thought to be unified Libyan rebels, and may diminish their ability to topple Muammar Gaddafi.

Abdel Fatah Younis, a top rebel commander was gunned down by  group referred to by other rebels as ‘renegade’. The Abu Obeida al-Jarrah brigade arrested Younis on suspicion of passing war plans to the Gaddafi regime, but he was killed before being taken for questioning.

Younis’ past as a close confidant of Muammar Gaddafi, who was considered to be number two in his government before defecting to the rebels in February, as well as suspicions that he played a role in the 1996 massacre of 1200 Muslims at a Tripoli prison, may have had a hand in his assassination.

Minutes after the rebel oil minister Ali Tarhouni announced the news, soldiers loyal to Younis, opened fire on the hotel building housing the rebel headquarters, sending people scurrying for cover.

It remains unclear to how deep the suspicions are or how far the rift runs between the different rebel factions, and whether the rebel government will be able to regain control over such renegade groups, before the infighting jeopardizes the objectives of the rebellion.

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