Libyan rebels killed their commander for secret parley on war's end with Qaddafi
Exclusive Report July 29, 2011, 1:48 PM (GMT+02:00)
Gen. Abdel Fatah Younis, commander of the Libyan rebel forces fighting Muammar Qaddafi, was put to death on the orders of Mustapha Abdul Jalil, head of the rebel Transitional National Council, who wanted him out of the way before the start of peace negotiations, debkafile's intelligence and military sources report.
His execution was set up by TNC officers who first abducted him and the two colonels who never left his side. After they were removed to a point 20 kilometers east of the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, all three were shot in the head. The killers brought the bodies back to Benghazi to prove the TNC chief's orders had been carried out and collect their payment.
Younis, a former interior minister, defected to the rebel side in February after working with Qaddafi for 40 years. The circumstances of his death were deliberately confused by Benghazi.
Our sources report that the TNC chief Jalil wanted the powerful Younis out of the way for good before negotiations for the transition of government in Tripoli began. Jalil is a weak figure who enjoys scant respect – even among the Libyan tribes supporting the insurgency. He was clearly concerned that at some point in the negotiations, Gen. Younis's name would be put forward as the most suitable candidate for leading rebel representation in the post-war government in Tripoli, Qaddafi would then appoint his son Saif al-Islam as his successor and the two would run the future government as a team.
This plan is revealed here for the first time. It was already taking shape at the highest levels in Washington, Paris, Moscow and Berlin when it was derailed by the death of Younis. French foreign minister Alain Juppe brought the plan to London on Tuesday, July 26 to help the British government climb down from the demand to keep the war going until Qaddafi quit and departed Libya.
And indeed, the Cameron government agreed to line up behind Washington, Moscow and Berlin and conceded that the Libyan ruler would stay in the country after he stepped down.
But then, on Thursday, the TNC announced the death of the rebels' military chief. It was followed by a claim that pro-Qaddafi loyalists had shot him to impair rebel military capabilities and punish him for defecting. Jalil claimed that Younis had been called to the Benghazi headquarters for questioning but never arrived, tacitly encouraging the rumors that he had been a double agent who secretly served Qaddafi after his defection and made sure the rebels lost the war.
Those rumors were disseminated as a smokescreen to cover Gen. Younis' warning to the rebel administration in closed meetings - starting four months ago - that they would never defeat Qaddafi's army in battle and they would do well to stop the bloodshed and sit down to work out a power-sharing deal.
The general explained that were it not for the NATO air umbrella and Qaddafi's fear of the losses air strikes would inflict on his army he would have trounced rebel forces in eastern and western Libya and retaken Benghazi in less than a week.
When the TNC leader Jalil refused to heed these warnings and cut rebel losses, Younis gave his field commanders a free hand to negotiate a ceasefire with their opposite numbers on the pro-Qaddafi side. As a result, from the second week of May, an informal truce descended on the main battle fields of Misrata and Brega.
From time to time, rebel headquarters in Benghazi sent out officers with orders to tackle Qaddafi forces in defiance of the truce. But they were no match for the superior strength of government troops and were forced back - proving Gen. Younis had got it right.
When negotiations for ending the conflict hove in sight, Jalil suspected Gen. Younis of planning to beat his own path to Qaddafi and bypassing both the TNC delegation and the NATO powers. The TNC leader resolved to protect his own standing and bid for power by scotching the threat posed by the general.