Muammar Qaddafi’s youngest son, Saif al-Arab, and three grandchildren were killed in an allied airstrike on Tripoli, the government said.
Qaddafi and his wife were in the house at the time and survived the attack that killed his son, Moussa Ibrahim, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, said in a news conference. The strike was a “direct operation to assassinate” Qaddafi, he said.
“We do not target individuals,” Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard, who commands the alliance’s operation, said in a statement on NATO’s website.
More than two months of clashes in Libya have killed thousands and helped push oil prices up more than 30 percent. Much of the fighting 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 North Atlantic Treaty Organization said aircraft carried out “precision strikes” during the night against military installations in Tripoli.
If true, the killing of Qaddafi’s son would come 25 years and two weeks after his adopted daughter died in a U.S. strike. The U.S. bombed Libya in 1986, killing 37 people, in retaliation for the bombing of a Berlin disco, which was frequented by U.S. soldiers stationed in Germany.
NATO yesterday rejected a cease-fire offer from Qaddafi, saying his forces must stop their attacks on civilians before it considers any truce. Qaddafi, 69, 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 offers 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.
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.
Qaddafi’s other sons have all had official roles or international careers. Mutassim, born in 1976, is a national security adviser, while Hannibal, 35, and Khamis, born in 1978, command special army battalions
Saadi, 37, who played professional soccer in Italy, is a commander of the Libyan special forces, according to an Interpol notice. Mohamed, who was born in 1970 and is the eldest, is chairman of the state-run telecommunications company. Aisha, Qaddafi’s daughter, was born in 1978 and is an attorney. She was part of the legal team that defended Saddam Hussein.
Abdul Hafiz Ghoga, a spokesman for the rebels’ National Transitional Council, said reports of the deaths could be a ploy by Qaddafi to win international sympathy, according to al-Jazeera.
“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’s targets are military in nature and have been clearly linked to the Qaddafi’s regime’s systematic attacks on the Libyan population,” Bouchard said, adding he’s aware of reports on the deaths of Qaddafi family members. “We regret all loss of life, especially the innocent civilians being harmed as the result of the ongoing conflict.”
NATO said aircraft attacked a “known command and control building” in Tripoli’s Bab al-Azizya neighborhood.
Just hours before Qaddafi spoke of a truce, his forces shelled Misrata, killing many people, including children, a NATO official who declined to be named, citing policy, said yesterday.
NATO foreign ministers have made it clear that the alliance will continue operations until all of Qaddafi’s forces have returned to their bases, the official said.
‘Post to Leave’
“I don’t have a post to leave,” Qaddafi said in the April 30 speech on Libyan state television broadcast by Al Arabiya. “If I had a post, I would have ended like Mubarak or Ben Ali,” he said, referring to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Tunisia’s President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who were forced to step down in the face of popular protests earlier this year.
The mines were laid two to three kilometers (1.2 to 1.9 miles) offshore, detected by NATO, and are now being disposed of onsite, NATO said in a statement posted on its website. The temporary closing of the port prevented two humanitarian ships from docking, NATO said.
“The mining of a civilian port by pro-Qaddafi forces is clearly designed to disrupt the lawful flow of humanitarian aid to the innocent civilian people of Libya,” Italian Navy Vice Admiral Rinaldo Veri said in the statement.
Veri also asked civilian shipping companies to continue their coordination with NATO to ensure the safety of maritime transport in the region.
Thousands of people have died in more than two months of violence in Libya, which began with an uprising in the eastern city of Benghazi. In his speech, the Libyan leader blamed terrorists for leading the fight against his regime and said he would agree to a cease-fire if the extremists can be convinced to introduce a truce.
The insurgency has helped push oil prices up more than 30 percent. Crude oil for June delivery rose $1.07 to settle at $113.93 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange April 29. Futures rose 6.8 percent last month. Qaddafi said no one can force him to leave Libya and said outsiders won’t control the nation’s oil, Africa’s biggest proven crude reserves.
In the past month, more than 30,000 people have fled the fighting in the western mountains and crossed into Tunisia at Dehiba, according to the United Nations refugee agency.