Thursday 22 February 2018

Libya rejects claim son of Gaddafi died in air strike

Catrina Stewart in Jerusalem

THE FATE of Khamis Gaddafi, one of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's sons and a feared military commander, remained a mystery yesterday after rebel claims that he had been killed in a NATO air strike.

Tripoli rejected the report and accused rebels of attempting to draw attention away from the death of a mother and her two children, allegedly killed in NATO's dawn attack on Zlitan, a town southeast of Tripoli.

"It's false news. This is a dirty trick to cover up their crime in Zlitan and the killing of the al-Marabit family," said Moussa Ibrahim, a government spokesman.

Khaled Kaim, the deputy foreign minister, also insisted the commander was alive and well and had spoken with officials since the attack.

However, a rebel spokesman claimed that Khamis Gaddafi (28) was among 32 soldiers killed in strikes on an ammunition depot and military police base in Zlitan.

Rebels said they had received the news from informants and by eavesdropping on radio chatter.

The death of the Libyan leader's sixth son -- if the report turned out to be true -- would deal a massive blow to the embattled regime, which has failed to defeat rebel fighters in five months of fighting.

Despite being unconfirmed, the reports will boost rebels as they try to break the deadlock.

Khamis Gaddafi's 32nd Brigade is widely considered Libya's most elite unit, fiercely loyal and well-equipped. The 10,000-strong brigade is thought to have helped suppress protests in Benghazi in February, which left hundreds of civilians dead before the eastern city fell to the rebels.

At the time of the NATO attack on Zlitan, the brigade was reportedly in the frontline town to defend the approaches to the capital, Tripoli, which is just 100 miles away.

It is the second time that rebels have reported Khamis Gaddafi's death. He was rumoured killed in an attack in late March, but state television aired grainy footage a week later, apparently showing him attending a celebration.

In April, Libyan officials announced that Saif al-Arab Gaddafi, the dictator's youngest son, who held little influence, had died in an air strike on a Tripoli compound, which narrowly missed Col Gaddafi and his wife.

The Gaddafi family has largely kept out of public view recently, as western powers use air strikes in an attempt try to convince the dictator to relinquish his 42-year rule. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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