The claim that Muammar Qaddafi’s three grandchildren were killed in an airstrike conducted by NATO late Saturday is not true, an Al Arabiya source has revealed. A source close to the Qaddafi family has confirmed the death of Colonel Qaddafi’s youngest son, Saif al-Arab, in the airstrike but has denied the story that Mr. Qaddafi’s three grandsons were killed.
Government spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim, said that NATO attacked the house of Seif al-Arab Qaddafi, 29, with “full power”.
Colonel Qaddafi and his wife were in the building that was bombed, but were not harmed, Mr. Ibrahim said. He added that other people—whom he did not identify—were killed or wounded in what he said was a direct operation to assassinate the leader of this country.
Mr. Ibrahim later said intelligence on Colonel Qaddafi’s whereabouts seemed to be leaked to NATO.
“They knew about him being there, or expected him for some reason,” the spokesman said.
NATO, however, denied it was targeting Colonel Qaddafi or his family but said it had carried out an airstrike on a military post in Tripoli.
NATO continued its precision strikes against regime military installations in Tripoli overnight, including striking a known command and control building in the Bab al-Aziziya neighborhood shortly after 18:00 GMT Saturday evening, the alliance said in a statement.
Lieut. Gen. Charles Bouchard of Canada, NATO’s commander of Libya operations, said the target was part of a strategy to hit command centers that threaten civilians.
“All NATO’s targets are military in nature ... We do not target individuals,” General Bouchard said in a statement.
Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom, meanwhile, said NATO’s targeting policy in Libya was in line with a United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing the campaign.
Mr. Cameron refused to comment on what he said was an unconfirmed report from the Libyan regime that a NATO bombing raid overnight Saturday killed Mr. Qaddafi’s youngest son, Seif al-Arab, 29, and three of the colonel’s grandchildren.
Mr. Saif al-Arab is one of Colonel Qaddafi’s less prominent sons, with a limited role in the power structure. Mr. Ibrahim described him as a man who had studied in Germany. Several news reports, however, characterized Saif as a black sheep of the family who had been involved in scraps with the German police. In one incident that was cited by the international press, he was reported to have had an altercation with bouncers at a German nightclub.
The grandchildren killed were pre-teens, Mr. Ibrahim said.
Colonel Qaddafi has been known to sire a great many children, and no reliable count exists. News sources have said that his personal life is very colorful. Female foreign correspondents that have interviewed Mr. Qaddafi over the years have reported that he would frequently offer them demonstrations of his sexual prowess.
Mr. Qaddafi’s announcements concerning the alleged deaths of family members at the hands of foreign powers sometimes do not hold up to subsequent scrutiny.
For example, in 1986 it was claimed that his adopted daughter Hana died in 1986 by a US air strike launched in response to alleged Libyan involvement in the bombing of a Berlin disco frequented by US military personnel. However, many Libyans subsequently said that she had been spotted in Libya after the claim. The truth about Hana’s death remains a mystery.
Libyans generally do not trust this sort of information anymore, a source close to the Qaddafi family said to Al Arabiya.
Revising history about his family members is something that has happened before as far as Colonel Qaddafi is concerned.
After he took the power in the late 1960s, Mr. Qaddafi ordered the transfer of his father’s body to the Martyr’s Cemetery in Tripoli from a private graveyard. All official envoys to Libya are taken to visit his grave to pay their respects to Colonel Qaddafi’s father, as he is now a symbol of resistance against Italian occupation.
Libyan unofficial historians say, however, that they don’t have sufficient information that could lead them to believe that Mr. Qaddafi’s father, Hamid Abouminiar, a nomad, was at all involved in the resistance.
The appearance of an assassination attempt against Mr. Qaddafi is likely to lead to accusations that the British-and French-led strikes are overstepping the UN mandate to protect civilians.
“I am aware of unconfirmed media reports that some of Mr. Qaddafi’s family members may have been killed,” said General Bouchard. “We regret all loss of life.”
Left unsaid was the fact that journalists in Tripoli were not shown bodies of the deceased. Some observers questioned the veracity of Mr. Ibrahim’s announcement, suggesting that it could have been a ploy to elicit sympathy for the beleaguered Mr. Qaddafi.
The announcements about the alleged deaths of Mr. Qaddafi’s family members came on a day when pro-democracy rebels and NATO rejected yet another offer by the Libyan leader for talks to end the crisis.
NATO and the Libyan Transitional Opposition Council dismissed the call and insisted that Mr. Qaddafi cease attacks on civilians first.
In a televised speech on Saturday, Colonel Qaddafi said that NATO must abandon all hope of the departure of Muammar Qaddafi.
“I have no official functions to give up: I will not leave my country and will fight to the death,” he said.
The speech was billed as one marking the centenary of a battle against Italian occupation forces. Contemporary Italy is part of a NATO military campaign against Colonel Qaddafi’s forces.
“We are ready to talk with France and the United States, but with no preconditions,” Mr. Qaddafi said.
“We will not surrender, but I call on you to negotiate. If you want petrol, we will sign contracts with your companies—it is not worth going to war over,” Colonel Qaddafi said. “Between Libyans, we can solve our problems without being attacked, so pull back your fleets and your planes.”
“The regime has announced ceasefires several times before and continued attacking cities and civilians ... Any ceasefire must be credible and verifiable,” a NATO official told Reuters.
Weeks of NATO air strikes have failed to dislodge the Libyan leader, but have instead created a stalemate on a war Colonel Qaddafi initially looked to have been winning. But the military situation is fluid now, with government forces held at bay in the east and around the besieged city of Misrata, while fighting rebels for control of the western mountains.
(Mustapha Ajbaili of Al Arabiya can be reached via email at: Mustapha.firstname.lastname@example.org)