Reported by Karin Laub And Ben Hubbard, Associated Press
TRIPOLI, Libya — Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi escaped a NATO missile strike in Tripoli that killed one of his sons and three young grandchildren, a government spokesman said early Sunday. Hours later, Gadhafi’s forces shelled a besieged rebel port in a sign that the airstrike had not forced a change in regime tactics.
NATO’s attack on a Gadhafi family compound in a residential area of Tripoli late Saturday signaled escalating pressure on the Libyan leader who has tried to crush an armed rebellion that erupted in mid-February. The alliance acknowledged that it had struck a “command and control building,” but insisted all its targets are military in nature and linked to Gadhafi’s systematic attacks on the population.
Libyan officials denounced the attack as a crime and violation of international law. However, British Prime Minister David Cameron, without confirming fatalities, told the British Broadcasting Corp. that the strike was in line with a U.N. mandate to prevent “a loss of civilian life by targeting Gadhafi’s war-making machine.” The attack struck the house of one of Gadhafi’s younger sons, Seif al-Arab, when the Libyan leader and his wife were inside, said Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim. Seif al-Arab, 29, and three of Gadhafi’s grandchildren, all younger than 12, were killed.
Journalists taken to the walled complex of one-story buildings saw heavy bomb damage. The blast had torn down the ceiling of one building. Dust and smoke rose from the rubble, which included household items such as smashed toilet bowls, bathroom sinks and furniture among the broken walls and demolished floors.
When news of the deadly strike spread, rebels honked horns and chanted “Allahu Akbar” or “God is great” while speeding through the western city of Misrata, which Gadhafi’s forces have besieged and subjected to random shelling for two months, killing hundreds. Fireworks were set off in front of the central Hikma hospital, causing a brief panic that the light would draw fire from Gadhafi’s forces.
On Sunday morning, Gadhafi’s troops shelled Misrata’s port as a Maltese aid ship, the Mae Yemanja, unloaded food and medical supplies, said Ahmed al-Misalati, a truck driver helping move the cargo.”We were still working this morning when they started firing rockets,” said al-Misalati. “Some fell in the ocean, some on the pavement, some in the warehouses, and in the water in front of the boat.” The boat quickly embarked back to sea, he said.
The commander of the NATO operation, Canadian Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard, said he was aware of unconfirmed reports that some Gadhafi family members may have been killed and he regretted “all loss of life, specially the innocent civilians being harmed as a result of the ongoing conflict.” (Associated Press/IM)