Libya said on Sunday Muammar Gaddafi’s youngest son and three grandchildren were killed in a NATO air strike and Britain said that while it was not targeting the leader, it was homing in on his military machine.
Libyan government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim said Gaddafi was unharmed and in good health despite what he called “a direct operation to assassinate the leader of this country”.
The deaths have not been independently confirmed.
But they will be sure to heap pressure on NATO from critics who say it is overstepping a U.N. mandate to protect Libyan civilians and could trigger a backlash against the West and a renewed government push against rebels supported by the strikes.
Britain and Italy’s embassies in Tripoli were attacked after Gaddafi loyalists were shown on Libyan television vowing vengeance following the air strike.
Britain expelled the Libyan ambassador and Italy condemned the attack on its embassy as a grave and vile act.
Most Western countries closed their embassies in Tripoli before the NATO military intervention began several weeks ago.
Libyan officials took journalists to a Tripoli house that had been hit by at least three missiles. The roof had collapsed in places. Glass and debris covered the lawns and what appeared to be an unexploded missile lay in one corner.
“What we have now is the law of the jungle,” Ibrahim said. “We think now it is clear to everyone that what is happening in Libya has nothing to do with the protection of civilians.”
Libya’s civil war, which grew out street demonstrations for greater political freedoms that have rippled across the Arab world, has reached stalemate in recent weeks.
NATO DENIES GADDAFI TARGET
NATO denied targeting Gaddafi, or his family, but said in a statement it had launched air strikes on military targets in the same area of Tripoli as the bombed site seen by reporters.
Ibrahim said Gaddafi’s youngest son, Saif al-Arab, was killed in the attack. Saif al-Arab, 29, is one of Gaddafi’s less prominent sons, with a limited role in the power structure. Ibrahim described him as a student who had studied in Germany.
Al Arabiya on Sunday broadcast footage taken from Libyan Jamahiriyah TV which it said were the bodies of Saif al-Arab and the three children — two 2-year-olds and a five-month-old. They were wrapped in green cloth with their faces covered in white.
“NATO continued its precision strikes against regime military installations in Tripoli overnight, including striking a known command and control building in the Bab al-Aziziyah neighbourhood shortly after 1800 GMT Saturday,” NATO said.
NATO’s commander of Libya operations, Canadian Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard, said the target was part of a strategy to hit command centres that threaten civilians.
“All NATO’s targets are military in nature … We do not target individuals,” he said in a statement. “I am aware of unconfirmed media reports that some of Gaddafi’s family members may have been killed. We regret all loss of life.” Agencies