The Libyan rebels’ military commander, Abdel-Fattah Younis, was murdered by his rebel comrades while in custody after being arrested on suspicion of having remaining ties to Moammar Gadhafi’s regime. Initial reports shifting blame for the killing onto pro-Gadhafi loyalists have been dismissed.
The incident is the last in a line of many drawing the rebel group into disrepute. An accumulating record of extrajudicial executions, suppression of free speech, beatings, and thievery is rendering initial qualms about supporting the rebel group (with reported ties to al Qaeda) inescapable. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has even scolded the rebels, warning that they risk an end of US support.
But the US has fought an expensive and illegal war in their name, recently recognizing the rebels as the legitimate governing authorities and promising up to $30 billion in support. For the Obama administration, it’s becoming rather uncomfortably apparent that the opposition on whose behalf this war was fought may not be markedly different than Gadhafi.
The rebels who shot and killed General Younis have reportedly been detained and have confessed to the murder. As a funeral was carried out for him in Benghazi, the de facto rebel capital, the episode is a setback for the rebels and the moral legitimacy of the war.