The Libyan war took a new and dangerous turn with the government spokesman's report that a NATO bombardment had killed Saif al-Arab, 29, the youngest of Muammar Qaddafi's six sons, and three of his grandsonsin at a villa in Tripoli. Muammar and his wife were attending a family event there during the attack but were unhurt. NATO has not confirmed this report.
The spokesman Moussa Ibrahim, who took journalists around the heavily damaged villa in a residential district of the city, could not say which warplanes had carried out the attack. He repeated that whichever NATO member was responsible for the attempt to cut short the conflict by assassinating Qaddafi and members of his family was in violation of international law. The attack, "had no moral, legal or political foundation," he said. Referring to the terms of UN Security Council 1973, Ibrahim said: "What is happening in Libya now has nothing to do with the protection of civilians."
A student in Germany, Saif al-Arab was one of the Libyan leader's less prominent sons.
While repeatedly urging Qaddafi to leave power, US and French spokesmen have refrained from admitting NATO had been set the mission of killing him. Only the British Foreign Secretary William Hague has suggested that if the Libyan ruler were to be in the vicinity of bombardments he might be hurt.
The house was hit shortly after Col. Qaddafi in a televised speech offered negotiations for a ceasefire provided it was enforced by both sides, an offer later rejected by NATO. "The gate to peace is open," he said but stressed that no one could force him to leave power.
And if attacks continued, he said Italy would be punished for letting NATO use its air bases to bomb Tripoli. It was the first time he had named any country as a target for retaliation.
During his speech, several explosions were heard near the television building in Tripoli. debkafile's military sources point out that the very fact that NATO airplanes were able to aim three missiles at a house where Qaddafi had joined his family after the broadcast attests to the deep intelligence penetration of the personal security ring around the Libyan ruler and his family.
This would tie in with the recent rumors circulating in the West – and not confirmed – that some of his key intelligence officers had secretly defected. According to one rumor, Libyan secret service chief Abdullah Sanoussi had escaped Tripoli and made his way to the rebel stronghold in Benghazi were he was interrogated by NATO intelligence officers.
Another suggests that Sanoussi, who belongs to one of the biggest tribes of rebel-held Cyrenaica, was under heavy pressure to take his family and cross the lines to the rebels.
The deaths of Qaddafi's son and three grandsons in his presence will have wide ramifications, debkafile's military intelligence sources:
1. The Libyan ruler's determination to fight it out will be strengthened. If until now he refrained from hitting back at coalition allies in and outside Libya, now he is likely to pull out all the stops and starting using missiles and commando forces;
2. He is also capable of unleashing against Western targets the terrorist networks he maintains in several African countries. They are now employed in procuring and smuggling arms for his army;
3. He will use his personal loss as a propaganda weapon to demonstrate that the the West has an ulterior motive in stirring up the Arab peoples: It is to get rid of rulers standing in the way of their conspiracy to steal Arab oil, he will allege. This charge would resonate powerfully with Arab audiences;
4. The Arab League and African Union, whose support for its offensive against Qaddafi NATO has been courting, will have no choice but to get off the fence and condemn the bombardment which killed his son and grandchildren to prove they are not part of the alleged Western conspiracy.
5. Russia and China, joined by such countries as India, Turkey and Brazil, may well demand that the UN Security Council reconvene for a resolution to halt the NATO operation in Libya. They would thereby come to the rescue of the Libyan ruler and his regime.