Benghazi (Libya): The Gaddafi regime said on Sunday that it was in contact with members of the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) as the rebels tried to quash rumours about the mysterious death of their Army Chief.

In Tripoli, Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaaim said Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's government was in contact with members of the rebel NTC, but denied rumours of contacts with General Abdel Fatah Yunis, who was killed on Thursday.

 "There are contacts with Mahmud Jibril (number two in the NTC), and (Ali) Essawy (in charge of external relations), (religious leader Ali) Sallabi and others," Kaaim told a news conference. On talk of recent contacts between the regime and Yunis, Kaaim said, "He was in contact with the government during his visit in Italy two months ago.”Since then we had no contact with him despite (the fact that) we still have other contact with other members of NTC but not with Abdel Fatah.

“The rebels, who have frequently denied having any direct negotiations with the Gaddafi regime, sought on Saturday to stamp out rumours by providing details on Yunis's killing and tightening security in their Benghazi bastion.

NTC Chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil said Yunis had been summoned from the front by a committee of four judges with the knowledge of the NTC's executive committee, the rebels' de facto government.  "The recall of General Fatah Yunis from Ajdabiya was based on a warrant that was issued with the knowledge of the executive committee" of the NTC, he told reporters.

"I don't know why this arrest (warrant) was issued and we don't know who was present at the meeting when the decision was made or on what basis the decision was made.”

On Thursday, Jalil said Yunis, linchpin of Gaddafi's regime before defecting to the rebels fighting to oust the strongman since February, had been killed by an armed group after being summoned to answer questions on military matters. On Saturday, Jalil said Yunis died after being shot in the chest and head. He ordered all brigades, or katibas operating in Benghazi to disband and come under the fold of the Interior Ministry to boost security and unity.

Military spokesman Colonel Ahmed Omar Bani said the judges who summoned Yunis for questioning did not have the authority do so and that the defence minister had written a letter recalling the arrest warrant. He refused to identify suspects arrested in connection with the killing, saying they are innocent until proven guilty.

"When the full truth is known, it will be put to the people and the whole world," he said, adding that he "will cut the road to those trying to start up rumours among the revolutionaries."

(Agencies)