Libya: Gadhafi survives attack that killed son, grandchildren

Image: Damage Damage which the Libyan government said was caused by a coalition air strike is seen at the house of Saif Al-Arab Gaddafi in Tripoli
A picture taken during a guided government tour shows damage that the Libyan government said was caused by a coalition air strike at the Tripoli house of Saif Al-Arab Gadhafi, youngest son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.Louafi Larbi / Reuters
/ Source: news services

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi survived a NATO air strike on a Tripoli house that killed his youngest son and three young grandchildren, a government spokesman said on Sunday.

Meanwhile, a British official said his government couldn't confirm reports that the Libyan leader's son, Saif al-Arab Gadhafi, 29, was killed in the strike.

"We've no verification of that at the moment. These are still unconfirmed reports. I'm afraid we don't know one way or the other," junior Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt told Sky News when asked about a Libyan government statement that the air strike had killed Gadhafi's relatives.

Burt said command and control centers were "often placed in civilian areas by forces overseas."

'Law of the jungle'Libyan officials earlier took journalists to the house, which had been hit by at least three missiles. The roof had completely caved in at places, leaving mangled rods of steel hanging down among splintered chunks of concrete.

A table football machine stood outside in the garden of the house.

Libyan spokesman Mussa Ibrahim told a news conference that the villa was attacked "with full power."

"This was a direct operation to assassinate the leader of this country," the spokesman said.

"The leader himself is in good health," Ibrahim said. "He was not harmed. The wife is also in good health."

"What we have now is the law of the jungle," Ibrahim said. "We think now it is clear to everyone that what is happening in Libya has nothing to do with the protection of civilians."

The deaths will be sure to heap pressure on NATO — which denies targeting the Gadhafi family — from opponents of the mission who say it goes beyond its U.N. mandate to protect civilians.

Indeed, the airstrike was proof that the coalition was not protecting civilians, a Russian parliament member said soon after the news came out.

Russia has been an outspoken critic of the Western military alliance's intervention in Libya and has repeatedly said it was concerned at the use of force mandated by the United Nations.

"(It is) a clear confirmation of the indiscriminate use of force by the anti-Libyan coalition," Konstantin Kosachev told Interfax news agency on Sunday.

An uprising in Libya ousts dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

"More and more facts indicate that the purpose of the anti-Libyan coalition is to physically destroy Gadhafi," said the lawmaker, who heads the lower house of parliament's international affairs committee.

Gadhafi vulnerabilityThe strikes would also show the vulnerability of Gadhafi himself.

Fighting in Libya's civil war, which grew from protests for greater political freedom that have spread across the Arab world, has reached stalemate in recent weeks with neither side capable of achieving a decisive blow.

Ibrahim said Saif al-Arab was one of Gadhafi's less prominent sons, with a limited role in the power structure. Ibrahim described him as a student who had studied in Germany.

The grandchildren killed were pre-teens, Ibrahim said.

"The leader himself is in good health. He wasn't harmed ... His wife is also in good health.

"This was a direct operation to assassinate the leader of this country. This is not permitted by international law. It is not permitted by any moral code or principle."

On Tuesday, British Defense Minister Liam Fox and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters at the Pentagon that that NATO planes were not targeting Gadhafi specifically but would continue to attack his command centers.