Libyan crisis

Backlash at killing of Gaddafi's son

Supporters of Libyan leader set fire to British embassy in Tripoli / UN withdraws staff after its HQ is attacked by furious protesters / Nato accused of exceeding its mandate as civilians die in airstrike

Benghazi

Angry crowds went on the rampage in Tripoli yesterday, burning foreign embassies and forcing the UN to evacuate its foreign staff after a Nato bombing that the regime claimed left four members of Muammar Gaddafi's family dead.

The fallout from the air attack forced Nato onto the defensive and prompted its leaders and David Cameron to claim that the attack was in line with the UN Security Council resolution to target the regime's "war-making machine".

The Libyans claim the attack, which allegedly killed one of the Libyan leader's least known and least politically active sons, as well as three grandchildren, was a failed "assassination attempt" on Colonel Gaddafi. Russia, which abstained in the Security Council resolution that paved the way for air attacks in Libya, led the criticism of the raid, saying it raised "serious doubts" over Nato assurances that the allies were not targeting the Gaddafi family.

As mobs launched revenge attacks on international targets in the capital, the UN airlifted its international staff out of the Libyan capital and the British and Italian missions were left in flames. Britain expelled Libya's ambassador in London in response to the burning of its embassy, which was closed in February. UN officials confirmed that its Tripoli office was also ransacked and Italy said a number of other foreign missions had been attacked.

There has been no independent confirmation of claims that Colonel Gaddafi's son Saif al-Arab, 29, or any of the Libyan leader's grandchildren, all aged under 13, were killed in the blast at a residential compound in Tripoli on Saturday. However, state television showed the bodies of four people it said were the victims of the air strike.

The Tripoli government's spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim, said that Saif al-Arab "was playing and talking with his father and mother and his nieces and nephews" when Nato bombs hit. He said that Colonel Gaddafi escaped unhurt. The incident recalled the controversy over the US bombing of Tripoli in 1986 in which the Libyan leader's adopted daughter was said to have been killed.

Reporters allowed to visit the scene with government minders yesterday described a single-storey building with a demolished ceiling and a deep crater revealing a ruined basement. Video games and cooking pots lay scattered around, amid twisted metal and pieces of concrete.

A senior former Libyan diplomat, who has resigned from the country's diplomatic service but has yet to come out openly against the regime, said: "There is anger about these deaths, and a lot of the protests have not been organised by Gaddafi's people, they are spontaneous. Gaddafi will use this for propaganda and Nato is playing into his hands."

However, the regime's claims were dismissed by Libya's internationally recognised government in Benghazi, the Provisional National Council. "This was a stunt used for propaganda and to create splits in Nato," a senior council official told The Independent yesterday.

There is widespread scepticism in opposition-controlled Libya over the alleged death of Saif al-Arab. The official, who cannot be named, said that even if the deaths were real, they were justified under the UN mandate to protect civilians. "We believe that Nato would be right to attack the leader of the militia that is killing thousands of Libyan civilians," he said.

Hours before the announcement of the deaths and a stage-managed media tour of the destroyed compound in Tripoli, Colonel Gaddafi gave a rambling speech offering a ceasefire but refusing to discuss standing down. "We are seeing the last dance of the dying rooster," the council official added.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who avoided mentioning the claimed fatalities, said the strike was in line with the UN mandate to prevent civilian deaths. "The targeting policy of Nato and the alliance is absolutely clear," he said. "It is in line with the UN resolution 1973 and it is about preventing a loss of civilian life by targeting Gaddafi's war-making machine, so that is obviously tanks and guns, rocket launchers, but also command and control as well."

Nato confirmed that it had targeted a "command and control" centre but denied targeting individuals and pointed out that the alleged deaths had not been confirmed. The alliance has, however, refused to specify just which military operations were being planned from the site, and the deaths, especially those of the children, if confirmed, will not only lead to strong criticism from countries such as Russia and China, but also reinforce the unease felt by some member states, such as Turkey and Greece, about the direction of the air campaign.

While no one in Nato will admit to directly targeting Colonel Gaddafi, some hope that if the Libyan leader were to be killed in an airstrike, it could hasten the regime's collapse. "It all depends where he is at the time," said a government source. "He is the person who is charge of those forces which are targeting civilians and he could conceivably be near those command and control structures." Russia, which has been critical of Nato bombings in Libya, said the latest incident cast serious doubt on coalition claims "that the strikes on Libya are not aimed at the physical destruction of ... Gaddafi and members of his family".

Moscow has repeatedly called for a ceasefire in Libya and negotiations without preconditions, but has stopped short of raising the matter at the UN Security Council.

While complaining that Nato attacks were flouting international law yesterday, Tripoli renewed its assault on opposition outposts in western Libya and made a push towards Ajdabiya in the east.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Sport
wimbledonScot will face Ivo Karlovic next
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test