NATO, Britain: No Confirmation Gadhafi's Son Died in Tripoli Strike

British PM says air attack on Gadhafi compound was in line with UN mandate; Russia and Venezuela slam attack, while Libya rebels rejoice.

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NATO spokeswoman Carmen Romero said Sunday that the report of deaths in an overnight airstrike in Tripoli, including a son of Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi, remains unconfirmed.

"We targeted a military command and control building with a precision strike,"
Romero said. "It was not targeted against any individual. It was a military target, clearly linked to the Gadhafi's regime's systematic attacks on the civilian population."

A photo taken on a government organized tour shows ruins of a house at the site of a NATO strike in Tripoli on April 30, 2011, in which Muammar Gadhafi's youngest son was reportedly killed.Credit: AFP

The alliance acknowledged that it had struck a command and control building, but insisted all its targets are military in nature and linked to Gadhafi's systematic attacks on the population.

Britain also cannot confirm reports of Saif Gadhafi's death, junior Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt said Sunday.

"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," Burt told Sky News when asked about a Libyan government statement that a NATO air strike in Tripoli had killed Gadhafi's youngest son and three grandchildren.

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

Libyan officials denounced the attack as a crime and violation of international law. However, British Prime Minister David Cameron, without confirming fatalities, told the British Broadcasting Corp. that the strike was in line with a United Nations mandate to prevent a loss of civilian life by targeting Gadhafi's war-making machine.

The attack struck the house of one of Gadhafi's younger sons, Saif al-Arab, when the Libyan leader and his wife were inside, said Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim. Saif al-Arab, 29, and three of Gadhafi's grandchildren, all younger than 12, were killed.

Journalists taken to the walled complex of one-story buildings saw heavy bomb damage. The blast had torn down the ceiling of one building. Dust and smoke rose from the rubble, which included household items such as smashed toilet bowls, bathroom sinks and furniture among the broken walls and demolished floors.

Meanwhile, a Russian lawmaker who often serves as a mouthpiece for the Kremlin's views on foreign affairs on Sunday condemned the NATO airstrike.

"More and more facts indicate that the aim of the anti-Libyan coalition is the physical destruction of Gadhafi," Konstantin Kosachyov, who heads the lower house of parliament's international affairs committee, was quoted as saying.

Kosachyov called on Western leaders to make their position on the airstrikes
clear.

"I am totally perplexed by the total silence from the presidents of the United States, France, the leaders of other Western countries," Kosachyov said in an interview, according to the Interfax news agency. "We have the right to expect their immediate, comprehensive and objective assessment of the coalition's actions."

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has harshly criticized the ongoing airstrikes and accused NATO of trying to kill Gadhafi. Russia abstained in the March vote in the UN Security Council that authorized the use of force in Libya to protect civilians.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a Gadhafi ally, condemned Saturday's deadly strike, calling foreign military intervention in Libya madness. He said he believes the order they've given is "to kill Gadhafi."

When news of the deadly strike spread, rebels honked horns and chanted "Allahu Akbar" (God is great) while speeding through the western city of Misrata, which Gadhafi's forces have besieged and subjected to random shelling for two months, killing hundreds. Fireworks were set off in front of the central Hikma hospital, causing a brief panic that the light would draw fire from Gadhafi's forces.

Standing outside an improvised triage unit in a tent in the hospital parking lot, medic Abdel-Moneim Ibsheir considered the strike a form of justice.

"Gadhafi was not far away, meaning he's not safe," he said as occasional explosions could be heard throughout the embattled city. "It's just like our children getting hit here. Now his children are getting hit there."

On Sunday morning, Gadhafi's troops shelled Misrata's port as a Maltese aid ship, the Mae Yemanja, unloaded food and medical supplies, said Ahmed al-Misalati, a truck driver helping move the cargo.

"We were still working this morning when they started firing rockets," said al-Misalati. Some fell in the ocean, some on the pavement, some in the warehouses, and in the water in front of the boat.

The boat quickly embarked back to sea, he said.

Last week, regime loyalists attempted to mine Misrata's harbor to close the besieged city's only link to the world.

NATO warplanes have been carrying out airstrikes in Libya for the past month as part of a United Nations mandate to protect Libyan civilians.

The commander of the NATO operation, Canadian Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard, said he was aware of unconfirmed reports that some Gadhafi family members may have been killed and he regretted all loss of life, specially the innocent civilians being harmed as a result of the ongoing conflict.

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