Libya’s rebels say their military chief was shot dead in an incident that remains shrouded in mystery and may point to deep divisions within the movement trying to oust Muammar Gaddafi.
The killing — announced late on Thursday — came as the rebels launched an offensive in the west and won further international recognition, which they hope to translate into access to billions of dollars in frozen funds.
The rebels said Abdel Fattah Younes, who was for years at the heart of the Gaddafi government before defecting to become the military leader in the rebel Transitional National Council in February, was shot dead by assailants after being summoned back from the battlefield.
After a day of rumours, rebel leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil said Younes and two bodyguards had been killed before he could make a requested appearance before a rebel judicial committee investigating military issues.
It was not clear where the attack took place. Adding to the confusion, Jalil said the bodies were yet to be found.
Younes was not trusted by all of the rebel leadership due to his previous role in cracking down on dissidents.
But his death is likely to be a severe blow to a movement that has won the backing of some 30 nations but is labouring to make progress on the battlefield.