Sunday, May 1, 2011

Gadhafi Son killed in NATO Missile Strike (Wall Street Journal, 1 May 2011)

Courtesy: "Wall Street Jouirnal", 1 May 2011
Gadhafi Survives NATO Missile Strike that leaves Son Dead
TRIPOLI, Libya – A missile fired by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization struck a house where Col. Moammar Gadhafi was staying Saturday, missing the Libyan leader but killing his youngest son and three young grandchildren, a government spokesman said.
Col. Gadhafi and his wife were in the home of their 29-year-old son, Saif al-Arab Gadhafi, when the missile crashed through the one-story house in a Tripoli residential neighborhood, according to the spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim.
The young Mr. Gadhafi, who was reported killed, was the seventh son of the Libyan leader.

"The leader himself is in good health; he wasn't harmed," Mr. Ibrahim told a news conference early Sunday. "His wife is also in good health; she wasn't harmed, [but] other people were injured."
"This was a direct operation to assassinate the leader of this country," the spokesman added. "It seems intelligence was leaked. They knew about him being there, or they expected him. But the target was very clear."
The attack could mark a volatile turning point in Col. Gadhafi's 10-week-old battle against an armed popular uprising based in eastern Libya and the NATO bombing campaign that began in March. His regime is expected to use his son's death to rally Libyans against foreign intervention in the conflict. His Libyan foes, based mainly in eastern Libya, hope the threat of similar NATO strikes will erode support for the leader within his inner circle.
Seif al-Arab "was playing and talking with his father and mother and his nieces and nephews and other visitors when he was attacked for no crimes committed," Mr. Ibrahim said.
Three loud explosions had been heard in Tripoli on Saturday evening as jets flew overhead. Volleys of anti-aircraft fire rang out after the first two strikes.
Later, journalists who were taken to the home, inside a walled compound in the city's Gharour neighborhood, found its main one-story structure destroyed and two other buildings heavily damaged. The blast had torn down the main building and left a huge pile of rubble and twisted metal on the ground.
It was unclear how anyone inside could have survived.
Heavy bursts of gunfire erupted in Tripoli as news of the attack spread. Libyans poured into the streets firing into the air and chanting expressions of support for the leader and grief over his loss.
There was and gunfire in the de facto rebel capital of Benghazi as well, but it was celebratory. Residents came out onto the sea front promenade to wave the rebel black, green and red tricolor flag.
Trace bullets lit up the night sky and small explosions shook Benghazi as residents detonated small homemade bombs in the street.
"Now Gadhafi knows the pain that he has inflicted on thousands of Libyan families," said Wahid al-Darrat, a 23-year-old Benghazi resident who came out early Sunday to celebrate the strike.
Hafez Abdel Goga, the spokesman for the rebel government in Benghazi, said he was skeptical about the reports of the deaths of Col. Gadhafi's son and grandsons. He said he feared Col. Gadhafi could have fabricated the reports in a bid to curry sympathy among Libyans.
Mr. Ibrahim, the Libyan government spokesman, gave no details of Col. Gadhafi's whereabouts following the airstrike. Nor did he identify the leader's dead grandchildren -- he said only that they were pre-teens -- or those who were wounded.
Col. Gadhafi had seven sons and one daughter. Seif al-Arab, the youngest son, had spent much of his time in recent years as a university student in Germany.
The Libyan leader also had an adopted daughter who was killed in a 1986 U.S. airstrike on his Bab al-Aziziya residential compound, which was separate from the area struck on Saturday. That strike came in retaliation for the bombing attack on a German disco in which two U.S. servicemen were killed. The U.S. at the time blamed Libya for the disco blast.
Seif al-Islam's mother is Safiya Farkash, Col. Gadhafi's second wife and a former nurse. She is the mother of all but one of his children.
The fatal airstrike came hours after Col. Gadhafi called for a mutual cease-fire and negotiations with NATO powers to end a six-week bombing campaign.
NATO was drawn into Libya in March with a United Nations mandate to protect civilians against Col. Gadhafy's crackdown on a popular uprising that had erupted in mid-February.
Before Saturday's fatal airstrike, the Associated Press quoted a NATO official as saying the alliance would continue operations in Libya until all attacks and threats against civilians had ceased. "The regime has announced cease-fires several times before and continued attacking cities and civilians," the official was quoted as saying. "All this has to stop."
Libyan officials said two previous airstrikes during the past week indicated NATO forces were trying to kill Col. Gadhafi -- an assertion NATO officials denied. Before dawn Saturday, NATO bombed a government complex in Tripoli as the Libyan leader was appearing on television to offer a cease-fire.
Those airstrikes damaged a pre-school for children with Down Syndrome and two government buildings, toppling a communications tower atop one of them.
Libyan officials said Col. Gadhafi was speaking live at the time of the predawn strike but would not disclose where from. The seaside complex includes the headquarters and transmitting tower of the state Broadcast Authority, which were not damaged.
A policeman at the scene said three people were hurt in three airstrikes. Reporters taken there were shown a partly demolished two-story building that appeared to be the main target. It housed the Libyan Down Syndrome Assn., which serves 400 children, and 15 social welfare agencies. Part of the pre-school and its library had been reduced to rubble.
In the ruins of the Italian colonial-era building lay a tall metal tower. Officials said they believed it was a cell phone repeater. "This building was purely for civil administration, nothing connected with any other activity," Social Welfare Minister Mohammed Sherif told reporters.
A nearby one-story parliamentary staff office had a crumpled roof, a large hole in a back wall and fallen ceiling tiles and light fixtures on the floor. A large portrait of the Libyan leader hung intact in the lobby.
Television screens in Tripoli flickered three times during the Libyan leader's 80-minute address, which began after midnight.
Mr. Ibrahim, the government spokesman, said NATO forces apparently thought Col. Gadhafi had been speaking from a building near the Broadcast Authority.
In his speech, Col. Gadhafi repeated his earlier calls for a cease-fire and said Libyans were free to choose their political system but not under the threat of bombings. He appeared tired and subdued after weeks of NATO assaults and an armed popular uprising against his 41-year-old rule.
"I'm not leaving my country," he declared. "No one can force me to leave my country and no one can tell me not to fight for my country."
The rebels' Transitional National Council rejected the cease-fire offer, saying it would not negotiate as long as Col. Gadhafi remains in power. "The time for compromise has passed," it said in a statement.
NATO officials said this week they were intensifying attacks on headquarters and communications centers that Col. Gadhafi uses to maintain his grip on the country. His sprawling residential compound, which includes military facilities, has been hit on two occasions by NATO bombs, most recently on Monday.Col. Gadhafi denied in his speech that his regime was killing civilians and said NATO was exceeding its mandate under a United Nations Security Council resolution to protect innocent lives. He urged Russia, China and friendly African and Latin American countries to press the Security Council to reconsider the resolution.
Airstrikes and international sanctions, he said, were hurting civilians and destroying Libya's infrastructure.
"We did not attack them or cross the sea... Why are they attacking us?" he asked, referring to European countries involved in the military campaign. "Let us negotiate with you, the countries that attack us. Let us negotiate."
Addressing Libyans, he struck a more conciliatory note than in recent speeches, in which he had called the rebels "rats" who would be tracked down and killed. This time he called on rebels, who control much of eastern Libya, to lay down their weapons. "We cannot fight each other," he said. "We are one family."
He spoke hours after the government had offered an amnesty to rebels in the besieged port city of Misrata, one their few strongholds in western Libya. Rebels there were given until Tuesday to surrender their weapons.
At the same time, the government warned that it would attack ships entering Misrata's harbor without its permission, even those carrying humanitarian aid to the city's 300,000 residents. On Friday, officials of NATO said its warships had intercepted several Libyan government vessels laying anti-shipping mines in Misrata's harbor less than two miles from the shore. The port is the city's only lifeline.
The mines were fished out and destroyed, a NATO statement said, and two dockings of ships bringing humanitarian aid to Misrata were postponed. It appeared to be the first time sea mines had been used in the Libyan conflict.
Mr. Ibrahim, the government spokesman, said he had no information about the mines. But he warned that Libya would allow humanitarian aid for the city only if delivered overland through government-controlled territory.

—John W. Miller contributed reporting from Brussels....................

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