Have the Libyan Rebels Formed a Death Squad to Punish Qaddafi Loyalists?

A Libyan rebel volunteer fires in the air a machine gun during the final phase of a military training in the eastern city of Benghazi on May 9, 2011 as Libyan regime forces laying siege to Misrata intensifyed their assault on the lifeline port and rebels warned they were running low on critical food and fuel supplies. AFP PHOTO/SAEED KHAN (Photo credit should read SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images) Photo: SAEED KHAN/2011 AFP

The bodies of two interrogators who worked for Muammar Qaddafi were found in fields outside the rebel stronghold Benghazi. The execution-style killings and kidnapping by masked, armed men have led to rumors — in the already-paranoid city — of a death squad hunting down forces loyal to Qaddafi. Prosecutors are investigating four such attacks, including another murder, and the possibility that Islamists imprisoned by Qaddafi are seeking revenge. For weeks, opposition authorities have been trying to round up suspected Qaddafi loyalists they say were trying to overthrow their transitional government. But rebels say their security forces are not involved in the squad. Rumors are also circulating that an armed group allied with the rebels or Qaddafi loyalists posing as allies are responsible.

The murders are an anomaly in Benghazi, which is growing safer as police stations have reopened, youth volunteers have cleaned up the streets, and authorities are contemplating reopening schools. The opposition's "justice coordinator" is working on charging the killers, whose actions undermine the rebel's stated vision for a peaceful transition to a country committed to the rule of law. “This is a war of rumors,” Colonel Fawzi Omami, a security guard at the radio station told the New York Times. “People are very edgy.”

Killings and Rumors Unsettle a Libyan City [NYT]