rebels make their way to the front line, west of Ajdabiyah
rebels make their way to the front line, west of Ajdabiyah, July 14, 2011. Reuters

The head of the Libyan rebels' armed forces and two of his aides were killed by gunmen on Thursday -- and despite officially confirming the news, the death of Gadhafi's former close friend is still surrounded by mystery.

The head of the rebels' National Transitional Council (NTC), Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, announced the death of Abdel-Fattah Younis at a news conference in the de facto rebel capital, Benghazi,on Thursday.

A day after his death, however, no clear information about who is really behind the killing has been given, prompting speculations about whether the NTC leader was killed by Gadhafi loyalists or his own camp.

Moments before Younis' death the NTC revealed that their forces had arrested the politician and two of his aides at their operations room near the rebels' eastern front.

Refusing to divulgate further information, security officials only said at the time that the leader was to be questioned after rebels suspected his family to still be in touch with the Gadhafi camp.

Younis, who was given a top position within the TNC, after defecting the leader's regime, had previously worked with Gadhafi as the interior minister.

During his time as a minister, Younis was by many considered as the number two of the government and one of Gadhafi's closest allies. While analysts and observers have questioned the position given to Younis within the NTC, rebel leaders had insisted he was a legitimate part of their movement.

Many however, both inside and outside the NTC were warry of Younis and questioned true allegiance, after claimed emerged in Tripoli that someone within the ruling council had been sent by Gadhafi to act as a double-agent.

According to The New York Times, Col Gaddafi's daughter Aisha refused to rule out Younis as the culprit in an interview she gave in April, which sources from Younis said was just out of spike as he had defected her father's regime.

Speculations surrounding the state of the council are now rife and especially as Abdul-Jalil provided very few answers by only agreeing to say that Younis had been summoned for questioning regarding "a military matter" before adding he and his two aides were shot before they arrived for questioning.

Abdul-Jalil, however, tried to calm rumours of a rift between the political forces of the council by calling Younis "one of the heroes of the 17th of February revolution," the NTC leader told reporters adding that rebel security had arrested the head of the group behind Younis' killing.

While he criticized Gadhafi for seeking to break the unity of rebel forces, Abdul-Jalil refused to accuse the leader or his forces of killing Younis, instead implying that "armed group" in the rebels cities needed to side with and not against the NTC.

The murder of the NTC military chief came as the rebels launched a military offensive in the west of the country, hoping to make new advances.

However, hopes of the rebel forces dashing through Tripoli are now put aside as the council will have to rebound from the killing of Younis. While most expected the NTC to accuse Gadhafi forces straightway, Abdul-Jalil's reservations led many to question whether he was killed by the rebels themselves, without the knowledge or consent from the figureheads of the council.

In the last few months, analysts have indeed warned against a schism between the rebel on the ground and the diplomatic figure of the council, emphasising that there was sometimes a lack of communication between the two.

Due to his pro-Gadhafi background, sources say he was not a unanimously approved figure, and many still distrusted him.

Abdul-Jalil, on the other hand, hinted at the presence of "armed Groups", which it seems, are neither officially siding with the rebels, nor with Gadhafi's loyalists, since the leader called for them to take up their arms and support their movement.

Also, as many analysts have pointed out since the beginning of the conflict in Libya, the opposition was never a homogenous group, and instead was fractioned and divided, with all side competing for political space and influence. Gadhafi ruled his government with a tight grip, and prior to the uprising, most figures of the opposition were forced into exile and operated outside of Libya.

While the NTC, imposed itself on the international scene as the main opposition to Gadhafi and then as the sole representative of the Libyan rebels, many pointed out that high profile officials of the movement were indeed Gadhafi's ex-close friend and advisers, right until the uprising began.

Moreover, despite the international community welcoming the NTC with open arms, nothing tells us for sure that the Libyan people are so enthusiastic. While the NTC has made alliances with other opposition movement, other factions refused to work so closely with ex-Gadhafi men.

Another problem, this time stemming from countries participating to the NATO operation, is the distribution of arms to the rebels. Far from a well-trained and well-organised army, observers repeatedly pointed out, the movement was made up of civilians, and as the movement needed as many forces as possible, security checks on new recruit were rarely carried out, enabling potential armed group to infiltrate the forces.

Finally, analysts inside Libya also reveals that Younis was engaged in a fierce rivalry with another commander called Khalifa Hifter. Sources affirm that some rebel fighters categorically refused to take orders from him, giving their loyalty instead to Hifter, who is now said to be considered as a serious contender for Younis' position. Rumours of a plot between Hifter and his men to get rid of Younis are also emerging, further questioning the future of the council in the long run.

Despite speculations, mourners turned out in mass in Benghazi on Friday to attend the funeral of Younis, with according to the Associated Press thousands of people turning out for the funeral procession .

The situation in Libya is much more complicated than what is often portrayed by the media and politicians alike. The country is fractured, divided, and with some of the Libyan factions still having links with terrorist group, calling them to side with the rebels is probably not the best idea. Whether Younis death is internal or external to the movement, cracks within the NTC are starting to appear, rendering the future of Libya all the more uncertain, and unfortunately even more unstable.