MISURATA, Libya // A Libyan rebel credited with capturing Muammar Qaddafi in a drainage ditch nearly a year ago died this week of injuries after being kidnapped and beaten by the late dictator's supporters.
The death on Tuesday of Omran Shaaban, 22, who had been hospitalised in France, raised the prospect of even more violence and score-settling, with the newly elected National Congress authorising police and the army to use force if necessary to apprehend those who abducted Shaaban and three companions in July near the town of Bani Walid.
Libya is battling lingering pockets of support for the old regime, and its government has been unable to rein in armed militias in a country rife with weapons. This month, a demonstration at the US consulate in Benghazi turned violent, killing four Americans, including the US ambassador.
Shaaban was praised as a "dutiful martyr" by the National Congress, although his family says he never received a promised reward of 1 million Libyan dinars (Dh2.9m) for capturing Qaddafi on October 20, 2011, in the former leader's hometown of Sirte. The dictator was killed later that day by revolutionary fighters.
The Libyan government said it would honor Shaaban with a funeral befitting a hero. His body was greeted at the airport in his hometown of Misurata by more than 10,000 people for a procession to a soccer stadium for funeral prayers.
In Tripoli, several hundred protesters gathered outside the headquarters of the National Congress to demand that the government avenge Shaaban's death.
Shaaban, the second youngest in a family of nine children, was a member of Libya Shield, a loose coalition of the country's largest militias relied on by the defence ministry.
Khalifa Al Zawawi, the former head of Misurata's city council, said the government reneged on paying the reward to Shaaban.
Shaaban did not mind, his brother, Abdullah, said, adding that Shaaban considered capturing Qaddafi to be his national duty.
Libya's president released a statement on Tuesday vowing that those responsible for the violence against Omran Shaaban would be punished.
But apprehending and disarming militants in Bani Walid are among the most daunting tasks facing the government. The town is heavily armed with rocket-propelled grenades, automatic weapons and artillery left over from last year's civil war.
Shaaban's eldest brother, Walid, insists there will be justice for the family, regardless of whether the government is the one to administer it.
"I plan to pursue his rights legally and join if there is a military incursion. We are going to death, God willing," Walid Shaaban said.
Family friend Abu Shaala echoed that sentiment.
"If the government does not go in, we are going in," he said. "We are all patient. But our patience has limit