Libyans Attack U.K., Italian Embassies in Tripoli Following Airstrikes
Crowds attacked the British and Italian embassies in Tripoli after Libya said an allied airstrike killed one of Muammar Qaddafi’s sons, Saif al-Arab, and three grandchildren.
The two embassies were assaulted yesterday, according to government officials in London and Rome. The United Nations began evacuating its international staff from the Libyan capital, the Associated Press said, citing the New York-based international body. The U.K. gave Libyan Ambassador Omar Jelban 24 hours to leave Britain.
Violence intensified in other parts of the Arab world, with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s military shelling the main square of a southern city to quell an uprising by protesters. In Libya, more than two months of clashes have killed thousands and helped push oil prices up more than 30 percent.
“The Vienna Convention requires the Qaddafi regime to protect diplomatic missions in Tripoli,” U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague said in an e-mailed statement. “That regime has once again breached its international responsibilities and obligations.”
The U.S. reserved condemnation of the assaults pending confirmation. “If true, we condemn these attacks in the strongest possible terms,” said Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman, according to the Associated Press.
Turkey, which has acted as a diplomatic go-between for its western allies and the Libyan government, will temporarily evacuate its embassy in Tripoli, Anatolia news agency said citing Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
Qaddafi’s son, Saif al-Arab, was killed late April 30, Moussa Ibrahim, a spokesman for the Libyan Foreign Ministry said in a televised press conference. Qaddafi and his wife were in the house at the time and survived the attack, Ibrahim said. He called the strike a “direct operation to assassinate” the Libyan leader.
The U.S., U.K. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization declined to confirm that Saif al-Arab and the grandchildren were killed by an allied air strike. NATO said in a statement that aircraft carried out “precision strikes” during the night against military installations in Tripoli, including a “known command and control” building.
“No confirmation from NATO,” Chris Riley, a NATO spokesman in Brussels, said in an e-mail.
Russia criticized NATO, calling the airstrikes a disproportionate use of force that exceeds the UN mandate in Libya. The attacks raise doubts about claims the coalition forces are not intent on “the destruction” of the Libyan leader and his family, according to a statement on the Russian Foreign Ministry website.
Saif al-Arab, who was born in 1982, is Qaddafi’s least-well known son. German police once seized a Ferrari owned by Saif al- Arab, a student at the time, for violating noise restrictions, according to The Telegraph newspaper. He wasn’t reported to have any public roles, unlike Saif al-Islam, 38, who has become a public face of the regime.
Abdul Hafiz Ghoga, a spokesman for the rebels’ National Transitional Council, said reports of the deaths may be a ploy by Qaddafi to win international sympathy, according to Al Jazeera television.
“If the news is true, the message has been driven to him,” said Faraj Najem, a London-based Libyan historian who opposes Qaddafi. “The pain is closer to him. Death has come closer to him.”
NATO rejected a cease-fire offer from Qaddafi, saying his forces must stop their attacks on civilians before it considers any truce. Qaddafi, said he’ll stay in the North African nation where his people want “martyrdom or victory” in the face of a rebel insurgency that began in mid-February.
It’s the second time in as many months that Qaddafi has offered a cease-fire. In March, hours after then-Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa said the regime was observing a cease- fire, Qaddafi’s forces attacked the outskirts of Benghazi. Koussa has since defected.
Much of the fighting in Libya is now centered on the rebel- held western port city of Misrata, where opposition forces last week pushed Qaddafi loyalists out of the city center. Qaddafi’s troops are shelling civilian areas in the city and attempted to mine part of the harbor, according to NATO.
The insurgency in Libya, which has Africa’s biggest proven crude reserves, has helped push oil prices up more than 30 percent. Oil for June delivery rose 47 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $114.40 a barrel at 10:09 a.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange, amid concern that the death of Osama bin Laden will trigger retaliatory attacks. Earlier, it touched $114.65, the highest level since Sept. 22, 2008.
In Syria, Assad’s military sent reinforcements to the southern city of Daraa and shelled the main square in an attempt to crack down on protesters who defied an order to not hold demonstrations.
The attacks by tanks forced people to stay inside their homes, Mahmoud Merhi, head of the Arab Organization for Human Rights, said in a telephone interview. At least 60 people were killed in clashes between protesters and security forces in Daraa on April 29, Merhi said. Residents have been without water, power or fuel for almost a week.
Deadly clashes over the past week pushed the number of deaths nationwide to more than 550 since the revolt began in mid-March, Merhi and Ammar Qurabi, head of Syria’s National Organization for Human Rights, said in telephone interviews. The protests in Syria have presented the greatest challenge to Assad’s rule since he inherited power from his father 11 years ago.
The U.S., the European Union and the United Nations Human Rights Council all took actions April 29 against Assad’s government. President Barack Obama ordered a freeze on U.S. assets and other sanctions against three Syrian officials. The sanctions also target the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate and the Quds Force of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for providing “material support” for the Syrian government’s crackdown on demonstrators.
In response to unrest in Yemen, Gulf Cooperation Council Secretary-General Abdel Latif al-Zayyani will return to Yemen to try again to secure a political settlement, the council said yesterday. President Ali Abdullah Saleh has refused to sign an accord to step down within a month in exchange for immunity, the council said.
GCC officials are seeking to avert an escalation of the violence in Yemen, the poorest Arab nation, or a deadly military divide like the one in Libya.