BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO denied targeting members of Muammar Gaddafi’s family on Sunday after a Libyan government spokesman said the leader had survived a NATO air strike in Tripoli that killed his youngest son and three grandchildren.
The Western alliance, which is conducting air strikes to protect civilians during an anti-Gaddafi rebellion, confirmed one of its targets included a command center in the Tripoli neighbourhood late on Saturday in which the Libyan spokesman said Gaddafi and his family were targeted.
“NATO continued its precision strikes against regime military installations in Tripoli overnight, including striking a known command and control building in the Bab al-Azizya neighborhood shortly after 1800 GMT Saturday evening,” it said.
NATO’s commander of Libya operations, Canadian Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard, said the target was part of a strategy to damage Gaddafi’s ability to plan and conduct attacks on civilians.
“All NATO’s targets are military in nature and have been clearly linked to the Gaddafi regime’s systematic attacks on the Libyan population ... We do not target individuals,” he said in a statement.
“I am aware of unconfirmed media reports that some of Gaddafi’s family members may have been killed,” he said. “We regret all loss of life, especially the innocent civilians being harmed as a result of the ongoing conflict.”
On Saturday, the alliance dismissed an offer of a truce and negotiations from Gaddafi, saying it was not credible and reiterating its stance that it will target his military equipment and facilities while civilians are being threatened.
NATO has been in command of Western military operations in Libya for a month, fulfilling a U.N. mandate to enforce a no-fly zone over the north African country and an arms embargo.
Its strikes on Gaddafi’s firepower have helped rebel forces but failed to tip the balance in a bloody civil war.
Bouchard also reiterated that NATO air strikes had not overstepped the alliance’s U.N. orders.
“NATO is fulfilling its U.N. mandate to stop and prevent attacks against civilians with precision and care - unlike Gaddafi’s forces, which are causing so much suffering.”
Reporting by Justyna Pawlak; Editing by Jon Hemming and Robert Birsel