A NATO missile strike killed Moammar Gadhafi’s youngest son and three grandchildren on Saturday but the Libyan leader survived, a government spokesman said.
Gadhafi and his wife were in the Tripoli house of his 29-year-old son, Seif al-Arab Gadhafi, when it was hit by at least one bomb dropped from a NATO warplane, according to Libyan spokesman Moussa Ibrahim.
“The leader himself is in good health,” Ibrahim said. “He was not harmed. The wife is also in good health.”
Seif al-Arab Gadhafi was the sixth son of Gadhafi and brother of the better known Seif al-Islam Gadhafi. The younger Gadhafi had spent much of his time in Germany in recent years.
“The attack resulted in the martyrdom of brother Seif al-Arab Gadhafi, 29 years old, and three of the leader’s grandchildren,” Ibrahim said. He said Seif al-Arab had studied at a German university but had not yet completed his studies.
‘No crimes committed’
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,” Ibrahim said.
Heavy bursts of gunfire were heard in Tripoli after the attack. Journalists taken to the walled complex of one-storey buildings in a residential Tripoli neighbourhood saw heavy bomb damage. The blast had torn down the ceiling of one building and left a huge pile of rubble and twisted metal on the ground.
Ibrahim said the airstrike was an attempt to “assassinate the leader of this country,” which he said violated international law.
On Tuesday, British Defence Minister Liam Fox and U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates told reporters at the Pentagon that NATO planes were not targeting Gadhafi specifically but would continue to attack his command centres.
Gadhafi had seven sons and one daughter. He 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.
The deaths Saturday came in the wake of NATO’s rejection of Gadhafi’s offer of a truce.
NATO said Saturday that it wanted Gadhafi’s forces to end their attacks on civilians before it considered the Libyan leader’s ceasefire offer.
A NATO official said the alliance wanted “to see not words but actions.”
Gadhafi defiant in TV speech
Gadhafi called for a ceasefire and negotiations with NATO powers in a live speech on state TV earlier Saturday, saying “the door to peace is open.”
In his rambling pre-dawn speech, which lasted for more than an hour, Gadhafi appeared both subdued and defiant, repeatedly pausing as he flipped through handwritten notes.
“You are the aggressors. We will negotiate with you,” Gadhafi said. “Come, France, Italy, U.K., America, come, we will negotiate with you. Why are you attacking us?”
The NATO official, who could not be identified in line with standing regulations, said Gadhafi’s regime has announced ceasefires several times before and continued attacking cities and civilians.
The official said that just hours before Gadhafi proposed the truce, his forces indiscriminately shelled the besieged port city of Misrata, killing several people.
“All this has to stop, and it has to stop now,” the NATO official said, adding that a ceasefire must be “credible and verifiable.”