Thousands attended the funeral of Omran Shaaban, the rebel who was credited with capturing late Libyan leader Muammer Qaddafi, on Tuesday, after his corpse was flown in to the coastal city of Misrata from France where he was undergoing treatment for alleged torture-inflicted wounds.
His death puts an added strain on the already tense relationship between Misrata and Bani Walid, neighbouring but historically rival towns which found themselves on opposite sides of the 2011 conflict.
Former rebels from Misrata and other Libyan cities consider that Bani Walid was not “liberated” of the “remnants” of former regime loyalists.
“We will take revenge militarily but legitimately,” Shaaban’s brother Walid, who commands a brigade made up of ex-rebel fighters, said.
“We will give the authorities an opportunity to tackle the issue but if they fail to act, we know how to make our move,” he told AFP.
Shaaban, 22, was kidnapped by armed men in July in the oasis town of Bani Walid, the final bastion of Qaddafi loyalists in last year’s conflict, Walid said.
He added that his brother tried to escape his assailants but they caught up with him and shot him in the neck and stomach.
The Misrata native was freed 50 days later in critical condition thanks to the mediation efforts of Mohammed Megaryef, president of the ruling General National Congress (GNC), who visited Bani Walid last week.
But he later died in a French hospital where he was sent for treatment, Walid said.
Late Tuesday, the General National Congress, which is Libya’s highest political authority, ordered the ministries of defense and interior to find those who kidnapped Shaaban and “use force if necessary.”
It also issued a statement published on the official LANA news agency lamenting the “loss of a brave hero” and vowing to take all necessary measures to bring the perpetrators to justice.
This former rebel had shot to fame last year with several photographs and videos showing him grabbing Qaddafi, whom he found hiding in a concrete drainage pipe, at the moment of his capture on October 20, 2011 in Sirte, before he was killed.