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Libya - Aug 6, 2011 - 16:48

Last modified: 6 Aug 2011 13:48

Libyan rebel leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil issued a plea for rebel unity on Saturday, as the cohesion of a five-month-long revolution wobbled under the weight of a high profile assassination.

Jalil, who heads the de facto government of eastern Libya, issued a statement calling on revolutionaries to keep up their efforts to topple Muammar Gaddafi and end the regime's 41-year rule.

"I would like to send a message to all Libyans in the liberated areas: we need to focus all our resources on the battle for freedom," he said.

"We need to unite now for a bigger cause."

Rebel unity has come into question as never before since the July 28 assassination of General Abdel Fatah Yunis, a commander who had been a long-time ally of Kadhafi before his defection.

Yunis's death, as he returned to Benghazi under arrest, has presented Jalil's lawyer-dominated National Transitional Council with a formidable political challenge.

The NTC has come under fire for its role in events leading up to Yunis's death, as well as its handling of the aftermath.

Although details are sketchy and still under investigation, it is known that an arrest warrant was signed by senior NTC member Ali Essawy, raising allegations that the NTC unknowingly helped facilitate his murder.

The rebel defence minister, Jallal al-Digheily, and his second in command have also come under fire for continuing a foreign trip when news of Yunis's arrest emerged.

The council has faced angry and sometimes violent protests from Yunis's tribe, as well as demands for reform from groups that were at the forefront of the February 17 revolution.

In response, Jalil insisted that a criminal investigation was under way and would yield prompt results.

"Soon the investigation will reveal the offender and the details of the incident," Jalil said.

The de facto president also promised that an internal investigation into the NTC's management of the crisis would not flinch from apportioning blame.

"No one is above the law, starting from the top of the NTC," he said.

The urgency of the dual probes has only been exacerbated by pressure from Yunis's Obeidi tribespeople for quick justice and even retribution.

Since the general's death, tribal tensions have come to the surface in a country where clans for decades have formed the basis for solving disputes in the absence of functioning judicial institutions.  -  AFP