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NATO air strike kills Gaddafi's son, Libyan officials say
The Libyan government has claimed that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was the target of an assassination attempt after an overnight NATO air strike reportedly killed his youngest son.
Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s youngest son Saif al-Arab and his three grandchildren were killed in an overnight NATO air strike, the Libyan government said on Sunday.
The youngest of Gaddafi’s six sons, 29-years-old Saif al-Arab maintained a low profile and had a limited role in the power structure. He had recently returned to Libya from Germany after his higher studies.
FRANCE 24’s David Thomson in Tripoli, who visited the wreckage of the villa in the upmarket Bab al-Aziziyah neighbourhood of Tripoli after the attack, said it was impossible to verify who had been there when the three missiles hit.
“But it is obvious that the house had been occupied,” he said. “The house was littered with personal possessions and children’s toys. There was still food in the kitchen and the television was still on.”
In the property, reinforced walls had been utterly destroyed by the missiles, and one huge unexploded bomb was lying in one of the rooms.
There has been no independent confirmation of the deaths, which would be the first casualties to directly affect the Libyan leader.
Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim claimed that Gaddafi was in the house at the time of the attack, but had escaped unharmed.
According to Thomson, the claim that Gaddafi had escaped unscathed “will allow Libyan authorities to build up a myth of invincibility around the Libyan leader. It also gives them the opportunity to accuse NATO of attempting to assassinate him.”
He added: “The government spokesman repeated once again that this was an attack by crusader forces who are only interested in Libya’s oil.”
Meanwhile NATO confirmed that there had been an attack in the Bab al-Aziziyah neighbourhood, but did not confirm the death of Gaddafi’s son.
Canadian Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard, the NATO mission commander, said the strike was part of a strategy to hit command centres that threaten civilians, insisting that Gaddafi had not been the target.
“All NATO’s targets are military in nature ... We do not target individuals,” he said.
Early on Saturday, NATO rejected a ceasefire offer by the Libyan leader, saying there was no room for negotiations as long as government forces continued to threaten civilians.
NATO’s mission in Libya has intensified in recent days. Earlier this week, western air strikes flattened one of Gaddafi’s office buildings in his compound in Bab al-Aziziyah.
The attack reportedly targeted a communications headquarters used to coordinate attacks on civilians.
There were scenes of jubilation in the rebel-held eastern city of Benghazi, with celebratory gunfire and explosions greeting the news that Gaddafi’s son, who played no major political role in Libya, had been killed.
Libyan rebels have been calling for Gaddafi's immediate ouster and a transition to democracy, but the long-time ruler repeated on Saturday that he would “never stand down and never surrender.”