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Libyan rebel leader sacks entire cabinet
Mustafa Abdel Jalil, head of the national transitional council, dismisses 14-man committee, but UK continues rebel supportMustafa Abdel Jalil, chairman of the Libyan national transitional council at a news conference. He has sacked the 14-man cabinet for 'administrative mistakes'. Photograph: Esam Omran Al-Fetori/Reuters
Britain has said it is determined to continue supporting the Libyan rebels after their leader dismissed his entire executive committee, which functions as a cabinet.
Mustafa Abdel Jalil, chairman of the National Transitional Council (NTC), sacked the 14-strong executive committee late on Monday over the assassination last month of army commander General Abdel-Fatah Younes. They included several top ministers, including those responsible for finance, defence and information.
Jalil said in an interview with al-Jazeera that the move was made because the cabinet had made "administrative mistakes" in investigating the assassination of Younes, whose burned, bullet-riddled, body was found on 28 July.
Jalil said a new cabinet would be appointed by the prime minister, Mahmoud Jabril, and a full investigation would be held into the general's death. He blamed a "conspiracy" for the assassination.
The political crisis in Benghazi, where the opposition is closely supported by Nato
, came as allied planes hit new targets in Tripoli, possibly including an arms depot, as part of the alliance's air campaign against the regime of Muammar Gaddafi
said 85 civilians had been killed in a Nato raid near Zlitan on Monday, but there was no independent confirmation of the deaths.
In Benghazi, the sacking of the cabinet has done nothing to bolster confidence among western backers of the NTC, which has been shaken by the lack of clarity over how Younes was killed hours after he was arrested for interrogation on unidentified matters by a panel of judges.
The Associated Press quoted NTC member Fathi Turbel as saying it was clear that the reshuffle was needed after the "military, security and media incompetence" in the wake of Younes's death. Younes, a former interior minister under Gaddafi, was an early high-level defector when the Libyan uprising began in February.
Benghazi's tribulations have also opened rifts with the rebel administration in Libya's third city, Misrata. The revolutionary fighters' spokesman, Ibrahim Betalmal, continues to insist that they will take no orders from the NTC.
A brigade sent to the besieged city from Benghazi has been ordered home after rebel units complained that the fighters were of low quality.
"We don't trust the guys from Benghazi," said one rebel fighter, at his request anonymous. "They don't want to fight."
Tensions within the opposition military have been apparent for some time, fuelled by rivalry between Younes and Khalifa Haftar, a popular opposition figure who returned from exile in the US.
British officials played down the turmoil in the NTC, insisting it was linked directly to the investigation into the killing of Younes. Its response had been "swift and emphatic", the Foreign Office said in a statement. "This reshuffle shows that those responsible will be held to account and the dismissal of the executive committee demonstrates the strength and maturity of the NTC.
"We understand that a new committee will be appointed in the very near future and that this will continue to be representative and inclusive. The move has not affected the NTC's ability to govern, nor hampered its ability to continue fighting for greater freedom."
It added:"Our support for the NTC and for the people of Libya remains steadfast. The NTC's transparency and accountability in this instance is in the starkest possible contrast to the vicious desperation of Gaddafi's attempts to cling to power."
The crisis in Benghazi coincided with the handover of the Libyan embassy in London to the anti-Gaddafi opposition, which was widely recognised last month as the "sole legitimate governmental authority in Libya". William Hague
, the foreign secretary, said the move "marks very clearly the fundamental change that is taking place in Libya.
Hague added: "People from across the country have decided to abandon Gaddafi. His actions have left him without legitimacy, and he is trying to cling to power with increasing desperation. Through its consistent actions the National Transitional Council has shown its commitment to a more open and democratic Libya that reflects the aspirations of the Libyan people. We will work with them to achieve this goal."
Gaddafi's government had reportedly been planning to use anti-squatter laws to try to evict the embassy's new occupants. Gaddafi's lawyers were also said to be seeking to challenge Britain's recognition of the opposition and to prevent Britain from using frozen Libyan state assets.
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