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Gaddafi's family killed in airstrike

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Screen grab of Muammar al-Gaddafi.

Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi’s youngest son and three grandchildren were killed in an air strike Saturday, a spokesman said, after rebels and NATO dismissed an offer for talks to end Libya’s crisis.

“The house of Mr Seif al-Arab Muammar Gaddafi… who is the youngest of the leader’s children, was attacked tonight with full power. The leader with his wife was there in the house with other friends and relatives,” government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim told a news conference in Tripoli early on Sunday.

“The attack resulted in the martyrdom of brother Seif al-Arab Muammar Gaddafi, 29 years old, and three of the leader’s grandchildren,” Ibrahim said.

“The leader himself is in good health; he wasn’t harmed. His wife is also in good health; she wasn’t harmed, (but) other people were injured,” he said.

“This was a direct operation to assassinate the leader of this country.”

Ibrahim had earlier taken journalists to the remnants of a house in Tripoli. Given the level of destruction, it is unclear that anyone could have survived, raising the possibility that if Gaddafi was there, he had left beforehand.

Three loud explosions were heard in Tripoli on Saturday evening as jets flew overhead.

The Libyan rebel capital Benghazi was rocked by sustained gunfire and explosions as fighters celebrated reports that Seif al-Arab was killed.

In an early Saturday speech on state television, Muammar al-Gaddafi had said that NATO “must abandon all hope of his departure.

“I have no official functions to give up: I will not leave my country and will fight to the death,” he said.

But he added a conciliatory note.

“We are ready to talk with France and the United States, but with no preconditions,” Gaddafi said.

“We will not surrender, but I call on you to negotiate. If you want petrol, we will sign contracts with your companies — it is not worth going to war over.

“Between Libyans, we can solve our problems without being attacked, so pull back your fleets and your planes,” he told NATO.

His call was dismissed by the opposition Transitional National Council, which has shaped itself into a parallel government in the eastern city of Benghazi, and by NATO.

“The time for compromise has passed,” said TNC vice chairman Abdul Hafiz Ghoga.

“The people of Libya cannot possibly envisage or accept a future Libya in which Gaddafi’s regime plays any role,” he added.

In Brussels, a NATO official also rejected talks. “We need to see not words but actions,” the official told AFP.

UN Security Council Resolution “1973 explicitly calls for an end to attacks on and abuses of civilians. The regime has announced ceasefires several times before and continued attacking cities and civilians,” the official said.

The regime threatened to attack any ships trying to enter the rebel-held port of Misrata, after tanks launched an assault on the city east of Tripoli.

Misrata’s port is a crucial conduit for humanitarian aid to the city of half a million, which Gaddafi’s forces have been trying to capture for more than seven weeks.

The fighting in Misrata has intensified 10 weeks after government forces launched a deadly crackdown on protests inspired by regime-changing movements in Tunisia and Egypt.

An AFP correspondent there said 10 people had been killed and 20 wounded by mid-afternoon, with witnesses saying as many as five tanks were seeking to advance on the city from the airport.

Loyalist forces were pushed back from Misrata by the rebels and NATO air strikes on Monday, with the rebels saying they had secured the port and their next objective was the airport.

State television also said the military had “put the port out of service,” and that delivery of humanitarian aid to Misrata should now be carried out “overland and under the supervision of the armed forces.”

British Brigadier Rob Weighill, director of NATO operations in Libya, said NATO warships stopped Kadhafi forces from laying mines in Misrata harbour on Friday.

“Our ships intercepted the small boats that were laying them and we are disposing the mines that we found,” Weighill said at his headquarters in Naples, Italy.

“It again shows his complete disregard for international law and his willingness to attack humanitarian delivery efforts,” he said of Gaddafi.

In Benghazi, meanwhile, rebels said loyalists had stormed the eastern oasis town of Jalo, several hundred kilometres south, and killed five people.

Rebels initially feared loyalists were then heading towards the rebel-held town of Ajdabiya, about 240 kilometres (150 miles) to the north.

But later, it emerged that the loyalist fighters had holed up in two oil facilities near the town of 20,000.

“It seems Gaddafi is trying to open another front in the south,” said a rebel source, and TNC spokesman Jalal al-Gallal said the attack was “not a great sign.”

The rebels said the troops that entered Jalo were the same ones that on Thursday swept into Kufrah, which lies hundreds of kilometres farther south.

Kufrah is the main city in Kufrah province, which lies in the southeastern corner of the country, bordering Chad, Sudan and Egypt.

In Tripoli, volleys of anti-aircraft fire rang out after the first two explosions Saturday night, which were followed by a third blast from the same direction.

Social Affairs Minister Ibrahim al-Sherif had said earlier in the day that a partially destroyed building in Tripoli had been targeted by an air strike, in what he termed a “barbaric act.”

Mohammed al-Mehdi, the head of the Civil Society Council, whose office was damaged in the blast, said three guards were wounded in the explosion on Saturday morning.

A school for children with Downs Syndrome, which adjoins the area of the building that was destroyed, was also damaged.

In western Libya, NATO said its warplanes would focus on regime forces threatening the towns of Zintan and Yefren, scenes of heavy fighting.

Meanwhile, rebels were expecting a new Gaddafi offensive for control of the Dehiba border crossing into Tunisia, witnesses said on Saturday, a day after they retook it from loyalists in fierce fighting.

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