Gaddafi son 'dies in attack'
Conflicting reports over death as coalition bombing continues
Published 22/03/2011 | 07:44
ONE of Muammar Gaddafi's sons is believed to have been killed in an air strike on the Libyan leader's compound in the heart of Tripoli.
Khamis Gaddafi, the dictators's sixth son, died in the attack which destroyed a three-storey administrative building, according to Arab newspaper reports.
Conflicting reports suggested that he was killed when a Libyan pilot deliberately crashed his plane into a barracks, but this claim was denied by sources in the capital.
Coalition forces bombarded Libya for a third straight night last night, targeting the air defences and forces loyal to Libyan ruler Col Gaddafi, stopping his advances and handing some momentum back to the rebels, who were on the verge of defeat just last week.
US President Barack Obama said the United States expects to hand over military leadership to its allies within days once the initial phase -- knocking out air defences to support the no-fly zone -- is complete.
However, Libyan anti-aircraft guns were in action in Tripoli for the third night, suggesting that the coalition was still some distance from the effective no-fly zone that it is aiming to achieve.
And ground forces loyal to Col Gaddafi were still fighting to gain and hold territory. They launched a fresh onslaught on Misrata, the last rebel stronghold in the western part of the country. Residents said water supplies had been cut off and government troops had encircled the city.
One resident suggested that the pro-Gaddafi forces were deploying human shields from nearby towns in the city, and claimed that when civilians had gathered in the centre of the town to confront the forces, they "started shooting at them with artillery and guns. The hospital told us that at least nine people were killed".
The British RAF backed up the claim that human shields were being deployed throughout Libya, admitting that a 3,000-mile mission to bomb Libya was aborted minutes from the targets on Sunday night because of reports that civilians were in the area.
Major General John Lorimer, strategic communications officer to the British Chief of Defence Staff, said the decision to call the mission off illustrated the coalition's determination to "take all measures possible to reduce the chance of harming innocent civilians".
It remained unclear whether Col Gaddafi was using them as human shields.
The British Ministry of Defence denied reports that Royal Marines from 40 Commando had been put on five days' notice to leave for the Mediterranean.
In Cairo yesterday, Libyans infuriated by the international military intervention blocked the path of the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-Moon, after his meeting with the Arab League secretary-general, Amr Moussa, who has been increasingly restive about the western attacks to impose a no-fly zone that his organisation backed 11 days ago.
The Libyans, carrying pictures of Col Gaddafi and banners criticising the intervention, stopped Mr Ban from walking round Tahrir Square, the scene of the protests which toppled Hosni Mubarak and helped to stimulate the uprising in Libya itself.
Meanwhile, four 'New York Times' journalists who had been held for six days after being detained in the east of the country were released yesterday. Bill Keller, executive editor of the newspaper, said that the paper was "overjoyed".