NATO denies targeting Gaddafi as son is killed
Nato was accused last night of deliberately trying to kill Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and reneging on pledges from its political leaders that they were not trying to use military might to bring about regime change.
A statement by the Russian foreign ministry said it had "serious doubts" that air raids, including one on Saturday night that the Libyan authorities said killed a son and three grandchildren of Gaddafi, were not intended to "physically eliminate" him. It said innocent civilians were being killed by the disproportionate use of force in the bombing raids.
The Libyan regime reacted with fury to the attack. "What we have now is the law of the jungle," said its spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim. "It is clear to everyone that what is happening in Libya has nothing to do with protecting civilians."
He said the strike was "a direct operation to assassinate the leader of this country".
Reporters in Tripoli were given a guided tour of the wreckage of a house that Mr Ibrahim said belonged to Seif al-Arab Gaddafi, the leader's youngest son, who was killed. An unexploded bomb lay amid the twisted wire and concrete of the main ceiling of the house, which had been brought down.
Mr Ibrahim said Gaddafi and his wife had been in the house at the time, talking with their son and playing with their grandchildren, three of whom, all aged under 12, also died.
He said Gaddafi's presence in the house must have been made known to Nato's military planners through an "intelligence leak".
British Prime Minister David Cameron and Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, have previously denied that military action was aimed at killing Gaddafi or removing him from power.
Nato acknowledged striking a "command and control centre" near Bab al-Azizia, the leadership compound in the centre of Tripoli used as both a family and military base by Gaddafi. But it said it had no direct knowledge of any deaths, and rebel groups claimed that the regime was spreading propaganda to split international efforts to oust Gaddafi.
"We are very suspicious," said Jalal el-Gallal, a spokesman for the rebels in their de facto capital of Benghazi. "There's no body and no verification.
"It's not beyond the man to claim something like this to win international sympathy and put pressure on Nato. . ."
Seif al-Arab Gaddafi (29) was the youngest and least known of the Libyan leader's children. He was said to have been injured in the 1986 American air strike on Tripoli that killed his adoptive sister, Hanna. He had been studying at Munich Technical University, Germany.
He was not thought to have played a major role in the fighting. (© Daily Telegraph, London)