Libyan regime denies Gadafy son killed in Nato air strike


THE GOVERNMENT of Col Muammar Gadafy denied a rebel report yesterday that a Nato air strike had killed the Libyan leader’s son, Khamis, commander of one of the government’s most loyal and best-equipped units.

Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said the report of Khamis Gadafy’s death was a ploy to cover up the killing of a civilian family in Zlitan, a battlefront city where Gadafy forces are trying to halt the rebel advance on Tripoli. “It’s false news. This is a dirty trick to cover up their crime in Zlitan and the killing of the al-Marabit family. They invented the news about Mr Khamis Gadafy in Zlitan to cover up their killing,” he said.

A rebel spokesman said the air strike had killed 32 loyalists in Zlitan, where Khamis Gadafy’s elite 32nd brigade is believed to have been leading the stand to defend the approaches to Tripoli, 160km (100 miles) away.

Nato was not able to confirm the report of Khamis Gadafy’s death. “We cannot confirm anything right now because we dont have people on the ground,” an alliance official said.

Meanwhile, Italy has demanded that Nato inquire into a report that an alliance warship blockading Libya repeatedly ignored pleas to help several hundred distressed and dying asylum seekers who were stranded at sea after fleeing the war-torn country.

It is the first time Rome has taken such an initiative since the start of the fighting in Libya when people began fleeing across the Mediterranean in often unseaworthy vessels.

Most of the more than 24,000 refugees have arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa, angering and embarrassing Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s right-wing government, which won power vowing to block illegal immigration.

Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini has asked his country’s permanent representative to Nato to open a debate on whether to amend the alliance’s mandate so that it covers “those who for reasons of war are forced to flee on boats, putting their personal safety at risk”.

In May, Nato denied an earlier report that its warships had left dozens of Africans to die aboard another vessel drifting off the Libyan coast.

Rome’s move follows the rescue by Italian coast guards of 370 people in conditions of extreme distress on an overcrowded boat on Thursday.

About 50 people were taken to hospital on Lampedusa suffering from shock, exhaustion and severe dehydration.

A Nato spokesman in Brussels said it was not clear whether the boat from which they were rescued was the one allegedly refused assistance. “There were a couple of incidents, and we are trying to sort out which incident this refers to,” he said. – (Additional reporting Guardianservice)