Evidence suggests daughter did not die in 1986 bombing as claimed

Fri, Aug 26, 2011, 01:00

Hana’s death may be a myth to spark sympathy. She very much seems to have lived in the family compound, writes MARY FITZGERALDin Tripoli

FOR DECADES her name was invoked by Muammar Gadafy and his apologists as proof of his personal suffering as a result of the US bombing of his Tripoli compound in 1986.

After US aircraft struck the Bab al-Azizia complex on April 14th that year, in revenge for the bombing of the La Belle nightclub in Berlin by Libyan agents, the regime announced that an adopted infant daughter of Col Gadafy, named Hana, had died in the raid.

The news was carried on Libya’s radio, TV and print media, despite claims that Col Gadafy had moved his family to safety, having received prior warning of the strikes.

An American journalist at the time was shown the body of a baby and told it was Hana. Since then, Col Gadafy has repeatedly referred to her supposed death to bolster the notion that he had been a victim of western military aggression.

On the 20th anniversary of the US attack, the Libyan regime organised the “Hana Festival of Freedom and Peace” to commemorate the incident.

Hana’s existence was debated by intelligence agencies in the aftermath of the bombing, which then US president Ronald Reagan ordered to strike back at what he called the “mad dog of the Middle East”.

Many Libyans have long doubted the story. In the rebel stronghold of Benghazi earlier this year, I heard constant claims that Hana had studied medicine and was working as a doctor in Tripoli. “The whole story that she was killed was just more of Gadafy’s propaganda,” one man told me.

Libyan web forums have buzzed with allegations that Hana was still alive and living in the capital. “When I asked who she was, I was told she was Hana Gadafy, Gadafy’s adopted daughter who was supposedly killed in 1986,” wrote an anonymous online commentator who claimed to have studied medicine at Tripoli’s main university at the same time. Diplomatic circles in Tripoli are said to have known about Hana’s existence for several years.

Yesterday in the terracotta-coloured section of Bab al-Azizia where the Gadafy family lived, I came across a room which seemed to be part-study, part-lounge. Its contents – including a Sex and the CityDVD box set; CDs of the Backstreet Boys; cellulite treatments; WellWoman vitamin supplements and stuffed toys – hinted that it belonged to a young woman.

Amid the bookshelves lined with medical textbooks and copies of Col Gadafy’s Green Book, I found passport photographs of a woman, dressed in medical garb, who appeared to be in her mid- 20s.