Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi survived a NATO air strike on a Tripoli house that killed his youngest son, Saif al-Arab, and three young grandchildren, a government spokesman said yesterday.
Libyan officials 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.
“What we have now is the law of the jungle,” government -spokesman Mussa Ibrahim told a news conference. “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 have not been independently confirmed. However, they would be sure to heap pressure on NATO — which denies targeting the Qaddafi family — from opponents of the mission who say it goes beyond its UN mandate to protect civilians.
Ibrahim said Qaddafi’s youngest son, Saif al-Arab, was killed in the attack. Saif al-Arab, 29, is one of Qaddafi’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,” Ibrahim said. “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.”
NATO denied targeting Qaddafi, or his family, but said in a statement it had launched air strikes on military targets in the same area of Tripoli as the bombed site seen by reporters.
NATO’s commander of Libya operations, Canadian Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard, said the target was part of a strategy to hit command centers that threaten civilians.
“All NATO’s targets are military in nature … We do not target individuals,” he said in a statement.
Any appearance of an assassination attempt against Qaddafi is likely to lead to accusations that the British and French-led strikes are overstepping the provisions of the UN resolution to protect civilians.
British Prime Minister David Cameron declined to comment on what he also called the “unconfirmed report.”
“The targeting policy of NATO and the alliance is absolutely clear. It is in line with the UN resolution 1973 and it is about preventing a loss of civilian life by targeting Qaddafi’s war-making machine, so that is obviously tanks and guns, rocket launchers, but also command and control as well,” Cameron said on BBC television.
Meanwhile, Britain said yesterday it was investigating reports the ambassador’s residence in Tripoli had been attacked, along with other countries’ diplomatic premises.