`Islamists may be active within Libyan rebels`

UK`s defence secretary warned that Islamist militants may have been behind Gen Yunis` assassination.

London: British Defence Secretary Liam Fox on Sunday warned that Islamist militants may have been behind last week`s assassination of rebel Libyan military chief General Abdel Fatah Yunis.

Fox told BBC Radio that the death, attributed by the British press to al Qaeda elements within the rebel movement, remained a mystery but that militant influence within Libya was inevitable.

"It`s not yet clear who actually carried out the killing," he said.

"Of course there are going to be militants in Libya -- there are militants right across the whole of the Middle East -- it would be a great surprise if there weren`t some in Libya itself," added the defence minister.

Britain last week recognised the rebels` National Transitional Council (NTC) as the legitimate Libyan government and Fox vowed Britain would continue to back the group despite the assassination.

"There has always been a mixture of people who make up the opposition forces in Libya...and it will be for the Libyans themselves to sort out exactly how any power structure develops post-(Muammar) Gaddafi," he continued.

"We`ve known from history that there have been radical elements there.”

"The aim will have to be as we move into the development phase and we go into the growing of the democracy in Libya, to ensure that these people are marginalised -- but to pretend they`re not there would be unrealistic."

A deadly clash broke out in Libya`s rebel stronghold of Benghazi in the wake of Yunis` murder, as the Gaddafi regime said on Sunday it was in contact with rebel leadership members.

Four rebels were killed in the clash with a pro-Gaddafi group in Benghazi overnight, a rebel spokesman said.

Bureau Report

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