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Gadhafi Son's Death: A New NATO Mission?
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Gadhafi Son's Death: A New NATO Mission?

Middle East


This is Weekend Edition from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

Libyan officials are reporting today that a NATO bomb strike on a house in Tripoli killed the son of Colonel Moammar Gadhafi and three of the Libyan leader's grandchildren. The reports have not been independently confirmed but according to an official spokesman, Gadhafi was in the house but not hurt. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro joins us from the Libyan city of Benghazi. And Lourdes, what's the Libyan government's account of the attack?

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: Liane, the government took journalists to a house that it said had been hit by a series of NATO bombs overnight. It was mangled and severely damaged. The government spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim, in Tripoli said one of Gadhafi's younger sons, Saif al-Arab, and three grandchildren were killed in that strike. Ibrahim also said Moammar Gadhafi was at the residence with his wife when it happened, but both of them are unhurt.

Ibrahim said this was a clear assassination attempt by NATO - far overstepping its U.N. mandate, which said NATO's involvement should be simply to protect civilians. But the fact is, Liane, this is all unconfirmed. We know the government in Tripoli has lied on several occasions about civilian casualties and strikes and damage. And frankly, we only have their word so far for what happened.

HANSEN: You're in Benghazi. What are you hearing in terms of reaction there?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, jubilation and skepticism on both hands. I mean, on the one hand, the rebel leadership in Benghazi said it might not be true, and that the Gadhafi government was trying to garner sympathy by saying his son and grandchildren had been killed in the airstrike. But that didn't stop people from taking to the streets here in the early hours of the morning. Listen to this:

(Soundbite of gunshots)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's the sound of people firing in the air, chanting on the streets; they were honking horns. It went on for several hours. People really celebrating here, feeling that NATO was finally doing its job - which, they feel, should be targeting Moammar Gadhafi.

HANSEN: Why do you think NATO targeted this particular compound?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, NATO has denied that it was deliberately targeting Gadhafi, and said its bombs went after command and control structures. But if it turns out that Gadhafi was, indeed, there then it seems more likely that they are deliberately targeting him. What we've seen, really, is the mission here has substantially changed from - if you'll remember - a no-fly zone to then bombing raids and now, to possibly direct assassination attempts.

Again, NATO has denied it. But frankly, the war is at a stalemate now, Liane. And the estimation may have been, now, that the quickest way out of this is just to kill Gadhafi. And if he was at the house that was targeted, then NATO is getting pretty good intelligence. And that means they're getting leaks from within the Gadhafi government, and that may be another important sign that support for him is dwindling.

HANSEN: There's still fighting, though, in places like Misrata. What do you know about the situation there?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: There's fighting in many parts of the country but certainly, Misrata is the most serious battle that is taking place. And we do know, from rebels there, that they are still being pounded by Gadhafi forces. We know that at least 10 people were killed yesterday in strikes by pro-Gadhafi forces, and that they are still waging a very fierce battle for that contested city in the west.

HANSEN: And that's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro in Benghazi, Libya.

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