Libyan rebels’ military chief mourned as death remains unexplained

Thousands of mourners have joined the funeral procession for the Libyan rebels’ military chief a day after he was gunned down under mysterious circumstances.

Mourners chanted “Martyrs are God’s Beloved” as they carried Abdel-Fattah Younis’s coffin to a cemetery in the unofficial eastern rebel capital, Benghazi.

Fear and confusion gripped the city, where heavy gunfire crackled in the early hours, as residents worried about the possibility his death could undermine the rebels’ military forces, leaving the opposition-held east vulnerable to attack by Muammar Gaddafi’s forces.

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The circumstances of his death remained almost entirely unexplained.

The head of the rebel National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, said Younis had been summoned to Benghazi for questioning on a “military matter” and was killed with two aides while en route.

He blamed “gunmen” and said one man had been arrested, but Abdul-Jalil did not say what he believed motivated the killers.

Younis was Gaddafi’s interior minister before defecting to the rebels early in the uprising, which began in February. His abandoning of the Libyan leader raised Western hopes that the growing opposition could succeed in forcing out the country’s ruler of more than four decades.

Rebel forces, however, held mixed views of the man.