In the wake of General Abdel Fattah Younes’ assassination last week, Libya’s opposition forces are trying to weed out infiltrators in the rebel capital Benghazi, in eastern Libya. On Saturday, just three days after Younes’ death, National Transitional Council (NTC) forces clashed with a group of armed men they alleged were loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, rounding up at least 63 men and killing 11. Our Observers in Benghazi call this operation a “victory,” and deny any divisions within the rebel camp.
Opposition spokespeople say the loyalists were pretending to be rebels. These alleged Gaddafi-backers had set up camp in an abandoned license-plate factory on the outskirts of Benghazi. After a gun fight lasting nearly all night, the “February 17 Brigade,” which is tied to the rebels’ interior ministry, managed to defeat the allegedly pro-Gaddafi faction. At least 63 people were arrested and 15 killed, four from the rebels’ side and 11 alleged loyalists.
The loyalist group, which called itself the “al-Nida brigade,” reportedly included pro-Gaddafi militiamen who were taken prisoner when Benghazi fell to the rebels on February 24. But since then, according to rebel officials, they proclaim to have switched loyalties.
According to the Libyan Youth Movement, a group of cyber-activists siding with the opposition, the following video shows Libyan rebels insulting prisoners taken during Saturday night’s raid. If you have any information about these images, please contact us at email@example.com.
Conflicting statements about the killing of General Younes, a former Gaddafi ally who switched sides to join the rebels, have raised questions about the unity of the rebels’ National Transitional Council. The NTC is now recognized by more than 30 countries as Libya’s only legitimate government. Saturday’s attack has added further fuel to the fire.
Moustapha al Sagazly, a rebel spokesman, explained during a Sunday press conference that the NTC’s security forces hadn’t dealt with this insurgent faction earlier because, he said, it was allied with a powerful local tribe that they were worried about alienating.
“The NTC wants to get rid of enemies who are hurting the rebellion”
Kasem lives in Benghazi. He’s in close contact with the Libyan Youth Movement.
The NTC knows that an armed militia was hiding out in the warehouse. They had doubts as to their loyalties, but up until now, the men who came in and out of there had said they were rebels. They wore the opposition’s colours and said they were fighting for the security of Benghazi and of its population.
On the day before the raid, NTC security forces went to the warehouse. They gave the men a warning [On July 31, NTC President Moustapha Abdeljalil ordered all militias present in Benghazi to give up their arms and join the rebels]. They asked these men to join Benghazi’s army or fight on the front lines in western Libya. It was their last chance to join the rebellion, but they refused. Sunday morning, shortly after midnight, the rebels launched an attack on the warehouse. People who live nearby told me that the attack was very violent, and that they were told not to leave their homes. I heard that some neighbours helped the security forces arrest the loyalists, who, in attempts to hide, climbed over garden walls.
[Only] three days after General Younes' death, this attack was a victory for the Benghazi rebels. Rumours about the general’s assassination had weakened the NTC. [According to NTC officials, the general was killed by three armed men. But the NTC hasn’t ruled out the possibility that Muammar Gaddafi might be responsible for his death. According to rumours circulating around Benghazi, however, he could also have been killed by anti-Gaddaffi rebels or al-Qaeda Islamists.] Of course, NTC security forces are poorly trained and have little equipment. But this attack proves that the opposition wants to get rid of enemies inside the country at all costs, and rebuild the country in a transparent manner.”
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Peggy Bruguière.