MUAMMAR Gaddafi’s son was killed in a NATO airstrike, Libyan rebels said last night, after the dictator’s regime accused the alliance of targeting civilians.
A spokesman for the rebels said Khamis Gaddafi, commander of an elite army unit, was killed along with many of his soldiers.
The AFP news agency quoted rebel spokesman Mohammed Zawawi as saying: “Overnight, there was an aircraft attack by NATO on the Gaddafi operations room in Zlitan and there are around 32 Gaddafi troops killed. One of them is Khamis.”
Rebels said their own operations room in eastern Libya had intercepted radio chatter indicating Gaddafi’s son had been killed.
Khamis, who trained at a Russian military academy, commanded the much-feared Khamis Brigade, one of the Libyan regime’s toughest fighting units.
The strike on the town 160km east of Tripoli appears to have come just hours after Tripoli took journalists on an escorted tour of its centre to accuse NATO of killing two boys and their mother.
The Times of London, which was represented on the tour, reported that at the scene of the alleged bombing, white sheets covering two coffins were pulled back to reveal the bloodied faces of Mohamed al-Mubar, 5, and his brother, Moaz, 3.
The newspaper said it was impossible to confirm that the family members were killed in an airstrike but it quoted an official at NATO’s operational command in Naples saying: “We are taking these allegations very seriously, as we always do.”
Fighters from the rebel enclave of Misratah, 60km east, announced this week they had made progress in Zlitan, a strategic coastal town on the road to Tripoli.
Authorities in Tripoli quickly denied that, claiming they controlled the entire town.
Meanwhile, state television reported that NATO warplanes struck Tripoli yesterday.
About 10 loud explosions rocked the Libyan capital about 1.30am (9.30am AEST).
Shortly afterwards, Libyan television said “civilian and military sites” at the southeastern suburb of Khellat al-Ferjan had been targeted by “the colonialist aggressor”.
Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaaim said rebel forces had sabotaged a pipeline in the strategic Nefusa mountains, southeast of Tripoli.
“The rebels turned off a valve and poured cement over it,” he said, adding this would lead to a shortage of electricity in the capital as oil and gas were used at the Zawiyah refinery to generate power.
Mr Kaaim said food and medicine were spoiling in the capital because of long power cuts. NATO “wants to create a humanitarian crisis in Libya while the aim of its mission is to protect civilians,” he said.
If the rebel claims about Khamis are true, he would be the second of Gaddafi’s seven sons to be killed in the civil war.
In April, Saif al-Arab, 29, died in a NATO bombing of his home in Tripoli.
Gaddafi and his wife were visiting Saif al-Arab’s home at the time, prompting speculation that NATO had received intelligence about the strongman’s movements.
NATO denied at the time it was an attempted assassination of Gaddafi. It said the bombing was “a precision strike on a known command and control building”.
Libya’s civil war has become a battle between the western part of the country, controlled by Gaddafi forces, and the eastern part, under the rebels, who launched a revolt in February as the Arab Spring erupted in the Middle East and north Africa.
But the rebels are battling internal divisions after the assassination of their commander, General Abdel Fattah Younis.
General Younis’s heavy personal security ring was breached by his killer, whom many rebels believe was an agent for the commander’s rivals in the uprising.
The threats of retribution following the assassination threaten to divert the focus of the rebels.
The rebels scored a minor victory on Thursday night when a massive oil tanker steamed into the port of Benghazi.
The 182m Cartagena docked shortly before midday, local time, the lip of its black hull pressed towards the water line.
A rebel soldier coming ashore said the vessel — which was emblazoned with the initials of the state-owned General National Maritime Transport Company — had been intercepted with the help of NATO two days ago “quite close to Tripoli”.
“We had information about this boat with the help of NATO,” said the rebel.
The fate of the crew was unclear, although the rebels said there was no resistance.
About 100 refugees fleeing Libya died on an overcrowded boat that arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa, a survivor told the ANSA news agency after being rescued.