BENGHAZI, Libya — Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi survived a NATO airstrike in Tripoli late Saturday night that killed his youngest son and three of the colonel’s grandchildren, a Libyan government spokesman announced early Sunday.
“Tonight and only a short time ago, the Western crusader aggression against the Libyan nation continued and proved again that it has no moral foundation, no legal foundation and no political foundation,” said Moussa Ibrahim, the government spokesman. “The attack resulted in the martyrdom of brother Seif al-Arab Muammar el-Qaddafi, 29 years old, and three of the leader’s grandchildren.”
Mr. Ibrahim said that Colonel Qaddafi and his wife, who were in the son’s house along with “friends and relatives,” were not wounded in the attack.
The son who was said to be killed has a lower profile than much of the Qaddafi family. Western officials have said that he made his home in Munich most of the time, and did not seem to play as much of a role in Libya’s everyday affairs as some of his older siblings (including one with a similar name, Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi).
Footage broadcast on the satellite channel Al Jazeera showed the wreckage of the house, including a wall with an enormous hole and shattered concrete. There was no immediate reaction from NATO or independent confirmation of the attack.
Celebratory gunfire and explosions could be heard throughout Benghazi, the de facto rebel capital in eastern Libya, and Misurata, a western city that Colonel Qaddafi’s forces have besieged for months. Tracer fire and fireworks lit up the sky over Benghazi.
The airstrike against the Qaddafis marked the most significant escalation so far in Western air campaign intended to help push him from power. In recent days, NATO leaders have described their growing frustration the resilience of Colonel Qaddafi’s military forces, which have begun to disguise themselves, hide equipment and otherwise evade NATO airstrikes.
As fighting along the eastern front with the rebels has slowed, NATO has stepped its attacks on the broader tools of Colonel Qaddafi’s power, including attempting to knock out state television and hitting what NATO calls command-and-control facilities inside his compound. And officials have acknowledged that their new attacks increase the chance of killing the colonel.
“We do consider command-and-control targets legitimate targets wherever we find them,” United States Defense Secretary Robert Gates said recently.
NATO has hoped that the pressure would encourage those around Colonel Qaddafi or in his armed forces to desert him. But with the intensified campaign has come new risks, including the possibility of civilian casualties in some of Libya’s most populated areas.
Earlier Saturday, NATO officials had rejected an offer by Colonel Qaddafi to call a cease-fire and negotiate as false. The proposal was delivered amid a rambling and often defiant speech, televised by Libyan state media, in which Colonel Qaddafi insisted he would never leave Libya.
“Come France, Italy, U.K., America, come, we’ll negotiate with you,” Colonel Qaddafi said. “You lie and say I’m killing my own people. Show us the bodies.”
The speech, which was broadcast about 2:30 a.m. Saturday, was the latest in a series of proclamations from the Libyan leader, and it was made as NATO forces said they would broaden their list of targets to include palaces, communication centers and other administrative buildings that Colonel Qaddafi relies on to maintain power.
NATO and the rebels immediately rejected the call for a cease-fire, which they described as a disingenuous ploy.
The allies’ attacks earlier Saturday included a strike on a government complex in Tripoli, the capital, that reporters were told housed a commission for women and children along with parliamentary staff offices, The Associated Press said. A television tower nearby was undamaged, though the broadcast went dark three times during the speech, The A.P. reported.
Colonel Qaddafi repeated his assertions that the rebels belonged to Al Qaeda or were terrorists and mercenaries, even as he appealed to them to lay down their weapons. Looking relaxed as he sat behind a desk, and gazing at someone or something off camera, he lost his train of thought several times and referred to notes in his hand.
“Qaddafi doesn’t have the power, he doesn’t have the position to leave,” he said of himself. ”With my rifle, I will fight for my country.”
An opposition spokesman in Benghazi, Jalal al-Gallal, dismissed Colonel Qaddafi’s offers as “public relations for the world.”
A NATO official in Brussels said that the Libyan authorities had announced cease-fires several times, only to continue attacks on cities and civilians.
“We need to see actions, not words,” the official told Reuters.
Source: New York Times