TRIPOLI,(Reuters) – Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) said on Monday a former NTC deputy prime minister was suspected of involvement in the killing of one of the rebel movement’s most senior military commanders.
General Abdel Fattah Younes was killed by his own side in July, an incident that caused deep rifts inside the rebellion against Muammar Gaddafi’s rule. The naming of the suspects risks reviving those divisions.
At a news conference broadcast on Libyan television, NTC chief military prosecutor Yussef Al-Aseifr named Ali El-Essawi as chief suspect. Essawi served as the NTC’s interim deputy prime minister until he stepped down earlier this year.
“The number one suspect in the investigation is the former deputy head of (the NTC) executive office Ali Abdelaziz Saad Al-Essawi,” Aseifr said.
“There are seven people suspected of involvement in Abdel Fattah Younes’s killing. Three have been arrested and security forces are looking for the others,” said Aseifr, who was standing alongside NTC chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil.
Essawi denied involvement in a phone call to the local Libya Awalen television station. “I never signed any decision relating to Abdel Fattah Younes,” he said. “Everybody in Libya wants the truth.”
Before he was made deputy prime minister, Essawi had acted as the NTC’s de facto foreign minister and toured foreign capitals rallying support for the rebellion before Gaddafi was forced from power in August.
Younes was for years part of Gaddafi’s inner circle. He defected at the start of the uprising against Gaddafi’s rule in February and became the military chief of the rebellion.
The circumstances of his killing remain murky, but it is known that he was killed after NTC leaders summoned him back from the front line to Benghazi, the eastern city where at the time the council had its headquarters.
His death exposed splits within the anti-Gaddafi movement, especially between Islamists and secularists, with different factions accusing each other of involvement.