Libya’s rebel forces yesterday said a NATO strike killed Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s youngest son Khamis and 31 others in the disputed town of Zliten, in what would be a severe setback for Tripoli’s military leadership.
The claim was denied by government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim, who said “the news about the killing of Khamis by a NATO airstrike are very dirty lies to cover the murder of civilians in the peaceful city.”
A rebel military spokesman said NATO had hit a military operations center overnight in the western town, killing 32, including Khamis, a feared military commander.
“Overnight there was an aircraft attack by NATO on the Qaddafi operations room in Zliten and there are around 32 Qaddafi troops killed. One of them is Khamis,” rebel spokesman Mohammed Zawawi said.
Zawawi cited spies operating among Qaddafi’s ranks and intercepted radio chatter as sources.
There was no independent verification of Khamis’ death, which has been rumored a number of times during Libya’s five month-long civil war.
From the Naples headquarters of NATO’s Libya operations an official confirmed the alliance’s warplanes had hit at least two targets in Zliten overnight, but made no comment about the reports of Khamis’ death.
“We are aware of the news reports,” the official said. “NATO struck an ammunition storage at around 8:15pm in Zliten and a military police facility within a combat area at around 10:45pm in the area of Zliten yesterday.”
If confirmed, Khamis’ death would be a huge blow to both the regime’s military and the morale of Qaddafi’s inner circle.
The 28-year-old Khamis trained at a Russian military academy and commands the eponymous and much-feared Khamis Brigade — one of the regime’s toughest fighting units.