Doubt cast on Gaddafi son death claim

Libyan state TV shows footage of Saif al-Arab, allegedly killed in NATO raid, amid heightened diplomatic tensions.

    Libyan state TV showed pictures of what it said was the body of Gaddafi's son reported killed in an air strike [Al Jazeera]

    Libyan state television has shown what it called footage of the body of Muammar Gaddafi's son who was allegedly killed in a NATO air raid.

    Moussa Ibrahim, the Libyan government spokesman, said on Sunday the Libyan leader and his wife were in the house of his 29-year-old son, Saif al-Arab Gaddafi, in Tripoli when it was hit by at least one missile fired by a NATO fighter jet late on Saturday.

    Al-Arab's compound in the city's Garghour neighbourhood was attacked "with full power" in a "direct operation to assassinate the leader of this country", Ibrahim said, calling the strike a violation of international law.

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    "What we have now is the law of the jungle," he said.

    "We think now it is clear to everyone that what is happening in Libya has nothing to do with the protection of civilians."

    Ibrahim had earlier taken journalists to the remnants of a house in Tripoli, which Libyan officials said had been hit by at least three missiles.

    It appeared unlikely anyone inside could have survived.

    Rifle fire and car horns rang out in Benghazi, the rebel stronghold in Libya's east, as news of the attack spread. Cars whizzed by the sea-front beeping their horns and shouting "God is greatest" as the night sky was lit up by red tracer fire.

    But opposition fighters who control the region said they could not trust Gaddafi.

    Lot of suggestions

    Al Jazeera's Sue Turton, reporting from Benghazi on Sunday, said there were "an awful lot" of suggestions in Libya that the news of the deaths could be fabricated.

    "One of the main spokesmen for the Transitional National Council, Abdul Hafez Goga, is saying he thinks it could all be fabrication, that it may well be Gaddafi is trying to garner some sympathy," she said.

    "Back in 1986, Gaddafi once claimed that Ronald Reagan, then US president, had launched a strike on his compound in Tripoli and killed his daughter.

    Thousands of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa are among those caught in the fighting in Libya [Al Jazeera]

    "Many journalists since then dug around and found out that the actual child that had died had nothing to do with Gaddafi, that he sort of adopted her posthumously."

    Saif al-Arab Gaddafi is the most unknown of the Libyan leader's children, Al Jazeera's Anita McNaught, reporting from the Tunisia-Libya border, said.

    "He's one of the low-profile of his children and has been largely invisible since the conflict began," she said.

    "He hasn't been visible in any significant form. He hasn't appeared on TV or made any speeches, he hasn't been on any crowd-rallying marches."

    Even as the claims about the deaths were being debated, she said fighting continued on the western border near Tunisia, where a number of Gaddafi's troops tried to break through the border crossing into Tunisia.

    "Rebel forces seem to know the territory very well here, and as long as they occupy the higher ground, they appear to have the upper hand," McNaught said, adding that she could hear Grad rockets whizzing past.

    Separately, pro-democracy forces reported fighting near the opposition-held city of Zintan, where they said NATO air strikes hit pro-Gaddafi troops.

    There were also reports of fierce fighting in the western city of Misurata, as opposition fighters tried to seize the city's airport from Gaddafi forces.

    Raid criticised

    The NATO air raid in Tripoli drew criticism from Russia on Sunday, which accused the military alliance of going beyond its UN mandate to protect civilians.

    "More and more facts indicate that the aim of the anti-Libyan coalition is the physical destruction of Gaddafi,'' Konstantin Kosachyov, a Russian politician who often serves as a spokesman for the Kremlin's views on foreign affairs, said.

    Follow our coverage of the Libya uprising

    NATO said it had continued air attacks against military installations in Tripoli, including one on a known command-and-control building in the Bab al-Aziziya neighbourhood, but it could not confirm the news of the deaths of Gaddafi's family members.

    "NATO targets do not include individuals, as they are military in nature and clearly linked to the regime's systematic attacks on Libyans," Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard, commander of NATO's Operation Unified Protector, said earlier on Sunday in a statement.

    "This was a military target and we cannot confirm who was there."

    Bouchard dismissed questions over the target site being a family home.

    David Cameron, the British prime minister, echoed NATO's stance on the Western coalition forces' targeting policy, and refused to comment on what he called an "unconfirmed report".

    'Embassies vandalised'

    The exchange of accusations came amid reports that the British and Italian embassies in Tripoli had been vandalised.

    In a swift response, the UK expelled on Sunday the Libyan ambassador, giving him 24 hours to leave the country.

    "The Vienna Convention requires the Gaddafi regime to protect diplomatic missions in Tripoli. By failing to do so that regime has once again breached its international responsibilities and obligations," William Hague, the British foreign secretary, said in a statement, referring to Gaddafi.

    "I condemn the attacks on the British embassy premises in Tripoli as well as the diplomatic missions of other countries."

    Separately, the UN announced it had evacuated its international staff from Tripoli on account of the unrest.

    Stephanie Bunker, a spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said that 12 staffers had left Libya and were now in neighbouring Tunisia.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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