Libyan mourners bury 'Gaddafi's son'

Hundreds gather for the funeral of Saif al-Arab in Tripoli, as fighting intensifies in the west of the country.

    Mourners have buried what was said to be the youngest son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, allegedly killed along with his three children in a NATO air raid. 

    Gaddafi did not attend Monday's funeral, but his two sons Saif al-Islam and Mohammed were surrounded by a crowd of mourners who carried the coffin said to contain Saif al-Arab's body to a neglected cemetery where weed and thistles grew amid stone slabs marking graves.

    Saif al-Islam stood at the freshly dug grave as the body was removed from the simple coffin, wrapped in a white burial shroud, and lowered into the ground.

    About 100 metres away, small graves had been dug for the Gaddafi's grandchildren who the government said were also killed in the bombing on Saturday night.

    From several positions near the cemetery, sustained anti-aircraft fire erupted for several minutes.

    More than a thousand people filled the streets of Tripoli for the funeral procession. 

    "The people want revenge for the martyr!" the crowd shouted, amid chants of support for the Libyan leader.

    Khaled Kaim, Libya's deputy foreign minister, has said the NATO strike was the fourth attempt to assassinate Gaddafi, who was in the building that was hit.

    Kaim denied the presence of command and control facilities in the Tripoli neighbourhood attacked by NATO.

    'Fabricated deaths'

    Kaim also denied allegations that his government had fabricated the deaths and said church leaders in Libya had been allowed to see the bodies in the hospital.

    Bishop Giovanni Martinelli, the top Catholic clergyman in Tripoli, said he was shown the bodies in the hospital on Sunday. He said he was told that one was that of Saif al-Arab, but it was so badly disfigured that he could not make a positive identification.

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    However, Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard, who commands NATO's operation in Libya, has said that the alliance does "not target individuals".

    But the announcement of the deaths triggered attacks by angry crowds on Western embassies in Tripoli.

    In the aftermath of the attacks, Turkey's foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, announced on Monday that the country had evacuated its ambassador and all other staff from its embassy in Tripoli to neighbouring Tunisia.

    "Due to the change in the security situation in Libya and the great security risk it poses, our embassy has stopped functioning temporarily and has been evacuated," Davutoglu told reporters.

    The NATO-member had kept its embassy open since the uprising against Gaddafi's rule began in February. But the announcement of its closure came a day after the UN said it had evacuated its international staff from Tripoli on account of the unrest.

    Fighting continues

    In other developments, Libyan government forces renewed their assault on the opposition-held town of Zintan in the western mountains late on Monday.

    Abdulrahman, a rebel spokesman, said at least 10 Grad rockets had been fired on the town, Reuters news agency reported.

    "They were fired by Gaddafi forces position north of Zintan," he said.

    Early on Monday, troops loyal to Gaddafi launched a new incursion into the opposition-held city of Misurata.

    Hassan al-Misrati, an opposition spokesman, said Gaddafi's forces ramped up their shelling of the besieged city.

    He also accused NATO of neglecting its duty to defend Libyan civilians from Gaddafi's bombardments.

    But another opposition spokesman said the government attacks ceased after NATO air strikes.

    "There were strikes by NATO on the outskirts of the city today at around midday (10:00 GMT)," the spokesman, called Reda, told the Reuters news agency by telephone.

    "The port is still closed. Gaddafi's forces bombarded it earlier today. The bombardment has now stopped."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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